Impacts of risks perceptions on decision-making on mitigation of losses from natural hazards: case studies of the 1995 Kobe, the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman and the 2011 Tohoku earthquakes

Nadejda Komendantova, Junko Mochizuki


Current multi-risk disasters, such as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster and the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake and tsunami, showed the need of a multi-risk approach in hazards mitigation and management, which makes the decision-making process on assessment of probabilities and making choices for risks mitigation even more complex. This motivated us to focus on two research questions. The first one is if stakeholders treat such hazards separately from each other, neglecting interdependencies and frequent causal, spatial and temporal relationships between different kinds of risk. The second one is how their behavior is influenced by different kinds of behavioral biases, leading to false estimations of probabilities of multi-hazard events and further choices in the decision-making process in regards to the multi-risk mitigation and management. Our methodology to approach these questions included case study method to identify cognitive and behavioral biases in frames of historical multi-risk disasters and conceptual content analysis to understand, which from the identified biases were the most influential in the decision-making process. We first conducted stakeholder interview to identify cases of multi-risk decision-making, then we conducted content analysis and case studies to understand how various cognitive and behavioral biases hampered risk governance and management in the identified cases. Our results showed that availability heuristics, loss aversion and limited worry were three most common biases, at the same time as experimental versus statistical evidence and bounded rationality were playing the least significant role in the decision-making process.


Multi-risk disasters; disaster preparedness; risks perceptions; cognitive and behavioral biases; decision-making processes

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