Developing the Weather DOSPERT: A New Weather Risk Taking Scale

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015: 9:15 AM
226AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Paul Hettler, California University of Pennsylvania, California, PA; and S. A. Jasko and C. M. Kauffman

Weather-related decision-making inherently involves uncertainty and risk. Individuals must make life and death decisions on the basis of weather forecasts and warning messages. A way of measuring and assessing individual risk perception and risk preference in these situations is needed to understand the decision-making process and to better design severe weather warnings. The authors have undertaken the development of a weather-related domain-specific risk taking scale that could be used by researchers, the NWS, and others in both basic and applied settings.

It is well documented that not only do risk preference and risk perception differ across individuals, but also within individuals as these risk measures may be domain specific. An individual may be risk averse in financial decisions, but risk loving in her leisure activity choices. One may perceive a similar probability differently in gambling situations compared to medical decision-making. Blais and Weber (2006) present the ‘domain specific risk-taking scale' (DOSPERT) as a tool used to measure subjects' risk perception and risk preference in financial, gambling, safety, recreation, ethical, and social decisions. The DOSPERT measures risk perception, benefit perception, and risk preference in each domain using a 7-point scale based on a subject's responses to 6 items in each domain. Weather-related decision making (for example, the decision to seek shelter upon receiving a tornado warning, or to evacuate in advance of a hurricane) by definition involve risk: weather forecasts are probabilistic as are the outcomes of weather events; however no DOSPERT scale existed for weather-related risk.

The ability to assess risk perception and risk preference as they pertain to weather-related risk is a precondition to understanding the decision-making process in this domain as well as improving the communication of weather-related risk. The development and use of a weather DOSPERT scale will illuminate more finely tuned insights about how different publics assess, value, and react to weather-related dangers. This, in turn, might be used to provide more effective warnings and inform public education efforts on the part of the National Weather Service (NWS), schools, and civil agencies.

The researchers began the development of the weather risk DOSPERT scale with the creation and initial testing of 35 potential weather-related items. These items were tested in surveys administered to approximately 100 undergraduate students at California University of Pennsylvania. During these surveys participants completed the accepted DOSPERT scale created by Blais and Weber (2006), the 35 proposed weather DOSPERT items, and four questions known to measure a participant's risk preference. Based on the results of these trials, several potential items showing low item-total correlation have been eliminated. The language used in several other items has been clarified. This presentation will provide an overview of the development of a research tool for assessing weather risk perception (the specialized weather DOSPERT).