Why people don’t behave as disaster risk management practitioners and policy makers would expect in times of crisis is often attributed to what are perceived to be ‘commonsensical’ explanations such as lack of access to information, lack of analytical skills, capacity or resources, or poor judgement based on misinformation. This paper challenges the ‘commonsensical’ and contributes to a growing body of research which argues that Disaster Risk Management (DRM) fails to pay adequate attention to the underlying assumptions that presume certain behaviour will result from the implementation of a DRM policy or programme. Focusing on contributions from social psychology to better understand what motivates, influences or steers the behaviour of individuals, this paper seeks to introduce disaster risk managers to new concepts that they may not have otherwise come across. Structured around the themes of emotions, unrealistic optimism and previous experience, the concepts introduced in the paper include territorial functioning, unrealistic optimism, memory bias, evaluability and risk compensation. The paper includes a consideration of some of the methodological limitations of the research presented under these three themes, the implications for DRM, and conclusions, which point towards the need for a greater consideration of the role of culture in DRM. These concepts, it is hoped can provide insight into better understanding why people don’t behave as we would expect.
Harris, K. Why people don&#8217;t behave as we would expect: The role of emotions, unrealistic optimism and previous experience in disaster preparedness, SCR Think Piece. (2012) : 20 pp.