Integrating competing conceptions of risk A call for future direction of research


The goal of this paper is to propose a theoretical framework that integrates between what has been traditionally presented in the risk literature as two opposing perspectives: the probabilistic and the contextualist. Acknowledging the differences between the two, we argue that a reconciliation of both could deepen and expand our understanding of risk, enlarge the scope and utilization of research methodologies, and bridge between lay people's and experts' notions of risk. This line of thinking reflects a dialectical approach in suggesting integration ("synthesis"), while acknowledging the existence of differences and oppositions ("antitheses"). Bruner's conceptualization (1986) of two irreducible and at the same time possibly integrated modes of thought can serve as a promising line of research in studying risk.  We claim that the two perspectives, the probabilistic and the contextualist, represent two different approaches to understanding and studying risk and that any attempt to reduce  or ignore one at the expense of the other would result in a limited understanding of the phenomenon.



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