Our society faces major challenges in numerous areas, including climate change and healthcare. Addressing these problems with technological advances are of great importance. Increasingly, however, consumers are resisting or rejecting such technological interventions based on inappropriate assignment of risk. In other words, the consumer assessment of risk is not in line with evidence-based assessment of risk. This article focuses on two controversial areas, vaccines and genetically engineered food, as examples in which consumers assign a high risk despite an evidence-based assessment of low risk. This article describes how empirically tested decision-making theories explain why consumers inappropriately assign risk. While these prevailing theories and strategies are meritorious, this article suggests that changes in modern day society need to be considered as variables in how consumers assign risk. This is a tough problem to solve and current risk communication strategies appear insufficient. This leads to the central issue addressed in this article, which is that risk communication/policy implementation needs to address emergent variables in modern society, including (1) rise of hyper individualism, (2) role of the internet, and (3) economic interests. After discussing how these variables likely apply to consumer risk assessment, this article proposes an important new direction, both normatively and empirically, to highlight the problem and analyze consumer decision-making.
56 Tulsa Law Review 39 (2020)