Evaluating a Deliberative Method for Ranking Environmental Risks in China
Date of Original Version
Abstract or Description
Previous research at Carnegie Mellon University introduced a systematic method for public participation in risk ranking. The method has been tested successfully with participants from the United States using school risks and environmental risks. To explore the viability of the method in another cultural setting, it was tested with Chinese participants, because previous research has shown that Americans and Chinese differ substantially along many dimensions of cognition and social organization relevant to decision making. Using 10 environmental hazards based on current environmental regulatory programs in a Chinese city as the risk domain, 5 groups of 8-9 participants ranked the hazards using both holistic and multiattribute approaches. Resulting judgment patterns for the Chinese participants were consistent with those observed in previous studies with Americans, providing additional evidence for the robustness of the method. Risk rankings from the holistic and multiattribute approaches were reasonably consistent, both for individuals and for groups. Explicit and implicit measures indicated that participants were satisfied with the procedures and resulting rankings. Results for Chinese participants were compared with previous results for Americans to look for cultural effects involving risk perception, deference to technical expertise and quantitative analysis, deference to senior group members, adherence to groups’ rankings because of collectivism, and skepticism toward public participation in policy making. Although there were some hints of cultural differences, no cultural effect had a substantial effect on measures of the method’s validity or replicability. Because the Carnegie Mellon method offers a scientifically sound and measured approach to legitimate public involvement, it may be attractive to Chinese leaders as they respond to growing demand for public participation in risk-management policy.