Risk Perception in a Developing Country: The Case of Chile

Nicolás C. Bronfman, Luis A. Cifuentes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Citations (Scopus)


In this work we characterize risk perception in Chile, based on the psychometric paradigm, exploring the difference between perceived social and personal risk. For this purpose, we conducted a survey including 54 hazards, 16 risk attributes, and 3 risk constructs. The survey, divided into four parts, was administered to 508 residents of Santiago, Chile. Using factor analysis, three main factors, which accounted for 80% of the sample's variance, were identified: factor 1, commonly called "Dread Risk" in the literature, explained 37% of variance; factor 2, "Unknown Risk," explained 28%; and factor 3, which we called "Personal Effect," explained 15% of the variance. On average, individuals perceived themselves as less exposed to risk and with more control and knowledge about them than the general population. OLS regression models were used to test the association of perceived risk with the three main factors. For social risk, factor 1 had the greatest explanatory power, while factor 2 had a negative sign. For personal risk, only factors 2 and 3 were significant, with factor 3 having the greatest explanatory power. Risk denial (defined as the difference between perceived personal and social risk) was associated with factors 1 and 2 only, with factor 2 having a negative sign. The difference between desired and actual regulation levels proved positive for all hazards, thus indicating that Chileans are dissatisfied with the current regulation level for all the hazards analyzed. The comparison of data at the aggregate and at the individual subject's level suggests that while the aggregate analysis overestimates the magnitude of the correlations it still reflects the tendency of the individual responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1271-1285
Number of pages15
JournalRisk Analysis
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2003


  • Developing countries
  • Environmental risks
  • Psychometric paradigm
  • Risk perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality


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