Anne Michels van Kessenich:
Risk is a Tool, Not a Problem: Communicating Risk to Make Confident Decision Makers

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In this lecture Anne presents the guiding material and principles that undergird the idea of risk as a communicative tool. In a nutshell, Anne’s research has observed a category error which is consistently made when thinking about the risk-concept: risk if often conceptualised as a threat in-of-itself within the general population due to how it has been communicated from early infancy, a perception which may result in decision-making avoidance and potentially exacerbate the effect of hazards. A successful shift in perception away from risk-as-a-threat requires new frames of communication: risk is a sign that asks you to pay close attention, like a traffic sign. There is no point in fearing a traffic sign; instead, you should learn to understand what it means and to use it wisely. Attendees are encouraged to share their views and ideas surrounding the problems and solutions regarding effective risk communication, and are asked to think one question in particular: is there a “silver bullet” with which we can help grown-ups lose their fear and avoidance of real engagement with the concept?

Dr. Anne Michiels van Kessenich is a political science graduate of Maastricht University, The Netherlands, with experience working with decision-makers in political organisations and local government. She has first-hand experience in political decision-making at the public interface and has an interest in the patterns through which the public approach and use the risk-concept. Anne’s research develops methods through which children can be taught to handle the risk-concept confidently, including their approach selecting behavioural options and consequent decision-making. Dr. van Kessenich focuses on the use of embodied learning to address the important part of the mental processes we use to arrive at a decision; and on the quality or emotional colour that we learn to give to the concepts we use.