Assistant Prof. Satoko Oki received the 2011 Society for Risk Analysis Japan Award.
The 2011 Tohoku earthquake caused about 20,000 casualties, with most of the dead and missing lost in an enormous tsunami. Those who survived the tsunami had evacuated to higher grounds, reflecting the importance of public perception in mitigating the disaster. To examine the changes in tsunami risk perception following the earthquake, we collected data from the residents of 17 prefectures in western Japan, where disastrous earthquakes have long been anticipated. While existing research argues that the experience of natural disasters increases risk perception, participants augmented their estimations of dangerous tsunami heights after the earthquake. This paradoxical result can be explained by the anchoring heuristic, which suggests that a record-breaking disaster altered the judgments of residents in the direction of greater vulnerability.
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