Why People Underprepare for Natural Hazard? (2)


Behavioral economics provides some clues. 

In fact, behavioral science has contributed much to the understanding of decision-making in the last few decades. It has revealed that our perceptions, preferences, choices and behaviors are often influenced by heuristics and cognitive biases. Research on the psychology of natural hazards and decision biases influencing hazard mitigation has been driven by Howard Kunreuther, Robert Meyer, Erwann Michel-Kerjan at the Wharton Center for Risk Management and Decision Processes at the University of Pennsylvania. Their analysis of the decision-making during natural disasters – mostly in the US context – has found that key behavioral biases and heuristics, play a great role in people’ reluctance to invest in mitigation measures. In their chapter (Kunreuther, et al., 2013) identify eight psychological biases and situational barriers that shape such decisions and hence limit people’s willingness to invest in hazard mitigation measures.

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To better understand why residents often act against their own interest and underprepare for natural disaster, let’s attempt to address the following questions: (1) Do residents in hazard-prone areas feel at risk? (2) Are they good forecasters? (3) Will they procrastinate?

(1) Do residents in hazard-prone areas feel at risk?

Well, the residents’ perception and response to future disasters is greatly influenced by the way they construe those events over time. Residents’ safety (and hence their need for risk prevention) is often recognized as a desirable goal (Higher-level construal). However, is safety worthy of investment?  Crudely, yes it is. Nonetheless, such investment becomes unfeasible as soon as hazard mitigation is framed as a near-future (lower-level construal) undertaking (Liberman, 2003). In fact, for many residents (landlords and tenants), installing mitigation measures might not be affordable in the short-run. They tend to overweight upfront mitigation costs and value their outcomes differently over time.

Are they good forecasters? (3) Will they procrastinate? (To be continued)

Kunreuther, H., Meyer, R., & Michel-Kerjan. E. (2013). Overcoming Decision Biases to Reduce Losses from Natural Catastrophes. In E. Shafir (Ed.), The Behavioral Foundations of Public Policy (pp. 399-413). New Jersey, NJ. Princeton University Press.
Trope, Y. & Liberman, N. (2003). Temporal Construal. Psychological Review, 110 (3), 403- 421.

Managing conflicts flexibly on a “welfare state” barometer

In addressing whether the Canadian “welfare state” model contributes to conflict resolution or exacerbate conflict, i would argue that Canada has been managing political conflicts flexibly on its “welfare state” barometer.

There is a consencanada-flagsus that government as the legitimate authority is “a set of institutions that make and enforce collective, public decisions for a society” (Dyck, p.5). These decisions – of different shape and forms – are perceived to be binding and necessary for the benefit of the society as a whole. They are anticipated to manage the “society-government” interactions if taken from a “Public Choice” and “State-centered” perspectives; as well as the “society-society” dynamics and expectations – if considered from a “Pluralism” and “Class Analysis” perspectives.

These decisions and policies are largely influenced by internal “cleavages” driven by a wide spectrum of social, economic, political and cultural dynamics and issues, as well as external factors such as globalization, international commitments, and global events and shifts of power, among others. They are dynamics and subject to change over time across the political and demographic spectrum of preferences and priorities.

Challenged with escalating and sometimes competing citizen’s demands, authorities might not be able to accommodate the various issues raised. This may contribute to widening the political divide among the various social fabrics, hence erupting some level of conflict.

I would argue that the changing role of the Canadian state on the welfare state barometer is a reflection of the various forms of competing and conflicting factors influenced by changing internal and external pressures over time. In that sense, government policy evolved from mere regulation and overseeing of rights into concrete interventions with the “Great Depression”. It was then pushed further into service provision by the Keynesian post-1930 drive. Since then, I would argue Canada has managed conflicts flexibly within its adopted “welfare state policy” framework. This is illustrated by the swinging of the government policy between a Keynesian-advocated welfare state in the 1950s, to a more liberal model in the 1980s, and back to a welfare state –believed to be best fit to the post-2008 crisis. (to be continued…)