This paper introduces sociologists to intriguing findings by psychologists about the heuristics that people use in thinking about risk, the resulting biases in estimates, the preferences people exhibit for avoiding risk in some cases and seeking it in others, and the effects of variations in how choices are framed on the attractiveness of competing options. How important these psychological processes are in nonlaboratory settings depends on a series of factors (e.g. how important a decision is, how long a person has to make decision, and whether competing actors offer alternative frames for the decision); these are outlined and illustrated here. Finally, the paper assesses the adequacy of this work as a foundation for a sociology of risk and discusses crucial issues (e.g. noncomparability of choices, risk seeking, and the role of supraindividual actors) that fall outside its purview but that would need to be incorporated into any sociological theory of risk.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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