Social Distrust as a Factor in Siting Hazardous Facilities and Communicating Risks

Roger, E. Kasperson; Dominic Golding; Seth Tuler

Journal of Social Issues 48(4): 161-187


ISSN/ISBN: 0022-4537
DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.1992.tb01950.x
Accession: 062263975

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Conflicts regarding the siting of hazardous facilities in the U. S. have often led to an impasse due to numerous problems, particularly including social distrust. To address this situation, this article proposes a multidimensional conception of trust, including cognitive, emotional, and behavioral aspects, and involving themes of expectations about others, subjective perceptions of situations, and awareness of taking risks. Four key dimensions of trust are perceptions of commitment, competence, caring, and predictability. Distrust arises from violations of expectations that people have in social relations. Research has shown a broad loss of trust in leaders and in major social institutions in the U. S. since the 1960s, together with growing public concern over health, safety, and environmental protection. These trends combine to make hazardous-facility siting highly controversial. This article recommends key steps in risk communication and hazardous-facility siting that are aimed at dealing as effectively as possible with social distrust.