Publication Date

2005

Publication Title

Alabama Law Review

Abstract

Because risks are on all sides of social situations, it is not possible to be globally "precautionary." Hence, the Precautionary Principle runs into serious conceptual difficulties; any precautions will themselves create hazards of one kind or another. When the principle gives guidance, it is often because of the availability heuristic, which can make some risks stand out as particularly salient, regardless of their actual magnitude. The same heuristic helps to explain differences across groups, cultures, and even nations in the perception of risks, especially when linked with such social processes as cascades and group polarization. One difficulty is that what is available is sometimes a result of predispositions, cultural and otherwise. There are complex links among availability, social processes for the spreading of information, and predispositions.

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