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Congruency within rural social networks as an indicator of interpersonal influence on risk judgments: the great stir caused by BSE in a village in northern Germany

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Lehmkuhl, Markus J.

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Abstract In the following survey, congruency within a sample of 150 rural social networks ascertained by comparing independently gathered data is used as an indicator of interpersonal influence concerning BSE-related current knowledge and consumption habits. Our findings suggest that friends, relatives and acquaintances mutually orientated each other about what was worth knowing about BSE. Concerning the behavioral dimension of risk judgments, our findings indicate that social networks obtained within the village explored have activated collective resistance against fear. This is explained by the character of the risk source. Positive attitudes towards conventional farming obviously contributed to the social identity of villagers. The devaluation of conventional farming as a source of societal threat by the mass media touched on an integral part of the self-definitions of villagers and activated resistance within their social networks. It is argued that a central point in explaining the role of interpersonal influence in risk judgments is not only the dimension of risk judgments but the character of the risk source. If attitudes concerning a risk source contribute positively to one's identity, the devaluation of the risk source by mass media coverage may enhance the probability of collective resistance against fear.
Document language English
Publication Year 2008
Page/Pages p. 485-502
Journal Public Understanding of Science, 17 (2008) 4
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)