Contextual Effects on Responsibility Judgments

Hans, Valerie P.
Nigg, Joanne M.
D'Souza, Melvin J. J.
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Disaster Research Center
Our research program has examined factors that lead people to hold others responsible for disasters and their consequences. In scenario experiments, respondents read descriptions of communities that experienced technological or natural disasters, and made judgments about the responsibility of various actors for disaster planning and mitigation as well as for compensation for disaster-related damages. Respondents’ judgments reflected strong desires for holding human actors responsible for disaster consequences. Attributed responsibility was substantial, even for natural disasters. Government officials, especially local officials, were perceived to be highly responsible for disaster mitigation and compensation for disaster losses. The perceived responsibilities of design professionals, scientists, businesses, and community residents varied with the type of disaster and the type of activity under consideration. The results indicate the usefulness of scenario methodology for understanding public judgments of responsibility for disaster consequences.
technological disaster , natural disaster , disaster planning , disaster mitigation , disaster losses