In this article, the concept of lifestyle is traced to its early roots in personality psychology and in marketing. In the latter field, many commercial marketing firms have made strong claims as to the explanatory power of lifestyle dimensions, often based on procedures which have been kept secret, but researchers have seldom been able to verify such claims. In spite of this, the approach is very popular, has wide credibility and is often given very favorable media coverage.
Probably because of this, it is often considered as a very important and promising approach by administrators working with the regulation of risk and risk communication. It may also be credible in some quarters because it affords a way of ‘explaining’ risk perception as being non-rational. In this paper, we give results from an empirical study of nuclear waste risk perception which is related to a basic risk perception model and three approaches to lifestyles: Kahle’s List of Values, a Swedish adaptation of the ‘Agorame´trie’ approach suggested by a group of French researchers, and Dake and Wildavsky’s Cultural Theory dimensions.
It was found that nuclear waste risk perception could be modeled successfully with risk attitudes and perception data (basic model about 65% of the variance explained), but that lifestyle dimensions added virtually nothing to the explanatory power of the model. Lifestyle dimensions in isolation only explained a minor part of the variance.
Risk perception has been an important research topic since the 1970s (Sjo¨berg, 1979). The reason is probably that risk is believed to be a crucial factor in policy attitudes and decisions. There are several problematic aspects to risk management, e.g., the often observed gap between experts and the public when it comes to socially and economically important hazards, such as those associated with nuclear technology. Another type of hazard of much current concern is food risk and genetically modified organisms, a third would be cellular telephones and the ‘electrosmog’ debate.
Authors: Lennart Sjoberg, Elisabeth Engelberg