An official website of the United States government.

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Increasing Understanding of Decision Makers Perceptions, Beliefs, and Behaviors for Environmental and Agricultural Risk Management Contexts

LeJeune, Jeffrey; Wilson, Robyn
Ohio State University
Start date
End date
Overarching Objectives
  1. To further understand what motivates individual choices in complex, risk management contexts.
  2. To identify ways to enhance the communication and synthesis of the risks (i.e., both probability and consequence) in individual decision making.
  3. To encourage more informed risk management decisions both individually and collectively.
Food Safety Project: I will play a key role in assessing beliefs, perceptions, and behaviors of farmers, consumers, and retailers who have the ability to mitigate risk from food-borne pathogens. I will also be actively involved in designing a risk communication protocol that will more effectively communicate risk and potential mitigation strategies. The intent of the food safety work is to move beyond the traditional view of risk communication as a message and demonstrate that risk communication can be a process that empowers individuals to make better risk management choices.

Experimental Psychology Project: Experimental work on loss aversion and attribution builds on the preface that risk policy decisions share two common elements: the dual nature of the outcome and the role of the decision maker as the agent. I am currently running a series of experiments to further assess these relationships with the hope that it will provide the necessary pilot data to seek additional external funding.

The Climate Risk Communication Project: The goal of this project is to identify and evaluate the effectiveness of varied approaches for the communication of scientific data to the public, particularly communication via the media. The specific context of this research will be communicating the science of climate change, which is a risk management issue with considerable social, economic, agricultural and environmental consequences.

Outputs: In addition to the actual research activities (i.e. conducting experiments, surveys, and mental models interviews), the proposed research will contribute both fundamental and applied knowledge to the research and practitioner communities. The results of this research will be presented at professional conferences to audiences with both theoretical and applied interests. The proposed research will also contribute to decision workshops and trainings that the PI conducts with extension personnel. Finally, the proposed research will be a training tool for graduate students in the School of Environment and Natural Resources and in other departments within the College of Food Agriculture and Environmental Science.

More information
NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: The proposed line of research has both theoretical and practical implications. This research is focused on understanding what motivates people's choices in complex, risk-based decision contexts. This requires expanding the boundaries of theory from psychology and economics into applied risk management settings. This work identifies underlying motivations and decision drivers as well as identifies how we can better communicate risk to the public. Increasing our understanding of how people process complex, technical information (e.g., the science) enables us to encourage more informed decisions both individually and collectively. Bridging this gap between science and behavior, or science and policy has many benefits. Gaining an enhanced ability to understand risk management issues and make choices that better reflect what is truly important ultimately benefits society. Scientific knowledge is also advanced by more clearly defining the boundaries of the theoretical base that is intended to predict individual and collective decision making processes. Previous work has dealt with wildlife management, as well as invasive weed, herbicide resistance, and antimicrobial resistance management strategies on the farm. These problems have important environmental and agricultural implications including preserving biodiversity, enhancing agricultural production, and protecting natural resources. These are important objectives in society because of the intrinsic and extrinsic value placed on natural resources, as well as the implications of poor agricultural management for environmental and public health. On-going and future work will deal with a few additional, and emerging risk management contexts, specifically the issues of climate change and food safety. These are two of the biggest risk management issues facing the environment, agriculture, and public health. These are issues that could benefit from an increased understanding of individual decision making processes, both those of individuals involved directly in policy and management, as well as those of the general public.

APPROACH: Objective 1: This objective will be achieved through experimental tests of theory and semi-qualitative surveys and interviews. Specifically, I plan to further test the boundaries of loss aversion in common risk-policy contexts. The purpose of this work is to further understand how an individual decision maker values the experiences of others, and how they expect others to place value in return. This work will be based on a mixed between-within experimental design, conducted initially with students at The Ohio State University and potentially with a national sample if external funding is secured. Analysis involves t-tests and ANOVA. I also plan to continue my mental models research regarding on-farm decision making behavior for weed management, antibiotic use in livestock, and food safety. This work involves semi-structured interviews, survey work, and focus groups for evaluation. Analysis involves chi-square for model differences and regression for survey work.

Objective 2: This objective will be achieved through experimental and semi-qualitative mental models research. Specifically, I plan to test formats for communicating the anthropogenic influences on climate through an experimental design. This work will again be conducted using student samples in the initial stages with plans to expand the work once external funding is secured. The mental models research will identify areas of agreement and disagreement between the target audiences and experts understanding of the specific risk issue. These gaps will then form the basis for future risk communication efforts. Similar to Objective 1, analysis will involve t-tests and ANOVA.

Objective 3: This objective will be achieved by applying the findings of objectives 1 and 2. Specifically, publications will be developed that identify how we can better incorporate individual into complex, multi-objective decision processes, as well as how we can better communicate the science associated with these contexts. The findings will also be used to develop better tools for communication that are then used by extension personnel and other individuals directly involved with the target audience in each context. For example, materials will be developed that more effectively communicate food safety risks and necessary mitigation strategies on the farm for produce farmers in Ohio. Analysis in this case will be follow-up evaluations of the usefulness of the decision making and communication tools through post exposure focus groups, survey work, and mental models interviews.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
Accession number
Antimicrobial Resistance
Risk Assessment, Management, and Communication
Bacterial Pathogens