This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (April 2016)
In public policy, outrage factor is public opposition to a policy that is not based on the knowledge of the technical details. The term "outrage factor" originates from Peter Sandman's 1993 book, Responding to Community Outrage: Strategies for Effective Risk Communication.
"Outrage factors" are the emotional factors that influence perception of risk. The risks that are considered involuntary, industrial and unfair are often given more weight than factors that are thought of as voluntary, natural and fair.
Sandman gives the formula:
Risk = Hazard + Outrage
The following are listed in Covello and Sandman's 2001 article, Risk Communication: Evolution and Revolution
|Factor||Risks considered to…||Are less acceptable than…|
|Voluntariness||Be involuntary or imposed||Risks from voluntary activities|
|Controllability||Be under the control of others||Risks under individual control|
|Familiarity||Be unfamiliar||Risks associated with familiar activities|
|Fairness||Be unfair or involve unfair processes||Risks from fair activities|
|Benefits||Have unclear, questionable, or diffused personal or economic benefits||Risks from activities with clear benefits|
|Catastrophic potential||Have the potential to cause a significant number of deaths and injuries at once||Risks from activities that cause deaths and injuries at random or over a long period of time|
|Understanding||Be poorly understood||Well understood or self-explanatory risks|
|Uncertainty||Be relatively unknown or are highly uncertain||Risks from activities that appear to be relatively well known to science|
|Delayed effects||Have delayed effects||Risks from activities that have immediate effects|
|Effects on children||Put children specifically at risk||Risks that appear to primarily affect adults|
|Effects on future generations||Pose a threat to future generations||Risks from activities that do not|
|Victim Identity||Produce identifiable victims||Risks that produce statistical victims|
|Dread||Evoke fear, terror, or anxiety||Risks from activities that don’t arouse such feelings and emotions|
|Trust||Be associated with individuals, institutions, or organizations lacking in trust and credibility||Risks from activities associated with those that are trustworthy and credible|
|Media attention||Receive considerable media coverage||Risks from activities that receive little coverage|
|Accident history||Have a history of major accidents or frequent minor accidents||Risks from activities with little to no such history|
|Reversibility||Have potentially irreversible adverse effects||Risks from activities considered to have reversible adverse effects|
|Personal stake||Place people or their families personally and directly at risk||Risks from activities that pose no direct or personal threat|
|Ethical/moral nature||Be ethically objectionable or morally wrong||Risks from ethically neutral activities|
|Human vs. natural origin||Generated by human action, failure, or incompetence||Risks believed to be caused by nature or “Acts of God”|
While policy analysis by institutional stakeholders typically focuses on risk-benefit analysis and cost-benefit analysis, popular risk perception is not informed by the same concerns. The successful implementation of a policy relying on public support and cooperation must address the outrage factor when informing the public about the policy.
In an interview with New York Times journalist and Freakonomics author Stephen J. Dubner, Sandman emphasized "the most important truth in risk communication is the exceedingly low correlation between whether a risk is dangerous, and whether it's upsetting".
The relevance of public outrage has been acknowledged in discussions of various policy debates, including
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- Stephen J. Dubner (2011-11-29). "Risk = Hazard + Outrage: A Conversation with Risk Consultant Peter Sandman".
- Corvello, Vincent; Sandman, Peter (2001). "Risk communication: Evolution and Revolution". Solutions to an Environment in Peril.
- Sandman, Peter M. (2016-11-07). "Risk Communication: Facing Public Outrage". Management Communication Quarterly. doi:10.1177/0893318988002002006. S2CID 144400652.
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- Sandman, Peter M. (1993). Responding to community outrage: strategies for effective risk communication. American Industrial Hygiene Association. ISBN 0-932627-51-X.