Paul Slovic


Professor Slovic challenges Professor Viscusi by suggesting that "risk" is a term with varying meanings and the potential for misinterpretation by study participants. He distinguishes between the probability and severity of a risk, and suggests that teens who know the probability of smoking causing cancer are not aware of the severity of the experience of cancer. He goes on to note that people often perceive themselves as being less at risk than others, and observes that Professor Viscusi's study posed questions about others, instead of asking teens to assess their own risks. Thirdly, he argues that teens perceive each individual cigarette as posing a small risk even if they seem to be aware of the larger risk of smoking. Finally, since many teen smokers intend to quit, he contends, they do not see smoking as hazardous to themselves. He argues that Professor Viscusi underrates the misperception of the risks of personal addiction. Professor Slovic augments his argument with original research demonstrating that smoking teens are more likely than nonsmoking teens to perceive the short term risks of smoking as trivial.

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