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Understanding how Citizens Respond to Risk

Sector: Financial services, Health, Energy, Government, Consumer goods, Digital and technology, Education, Retail, Media

Team: Umar, Owain, Eugene

Partner: Finsbury Glover Hering

The Challenge

Our partner was Finsbury Glover Hering (FGH), the global strategic communications firm. In the context of the global pandemic, FGH and CogCo wanted to create a framework for understanding how communicators and citizens understand and respond to risk.

The Approach

We reviewed the academic literature on how people process information and take decisions when faced with some form of risk – whether relating to an individual’s health, a business decision with uncertain outcomes, or the weather forecast. We then ran a series of studies involving 4,000 people from both the UK and the US in order to test how people in both countries responded to a wide range of different risk-based scenarios. We then brought this together through the development of a framework for understanding the way we perceive and how best to communicate them to an audience.

The Result

The result was a set of groundbreaking studies with real world applications in the middle of the Covid pandemic. For example, a study on vaccine hesitancy showed that individuals with existing views about vaccine efficacy misinterpreted risk-based information about new vaccines whenever it conflicted with their existing beliefs, but not when it reinforced them. This is known as 'confirmation bias'.

© Finsbury Glover Hering

Read the report here:

“It was fantastic to work with the CogCo team. The highlight was the use of large scale experiments to demonstrate how people respond to risks when making critical business and life decisions.” - Graeme Trayner, Partner and Global Head of Insight, Finsbury Glover Hering

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