Date of Award

Fall 2021

Publication Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

K. Lafreniere

Second Advisor

K. Cramer

Third Advisor

L. Buchanan


Psychometrics, Risk perception, Scale development



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


The goal of the current project was to create a measurement tool that could be used to assess all aspects of risk perception with one measure. There is a wide variety of risk-perception measures currently available; however, the vast majority of these measures assess a very specific risky activity, and many only assess a person’s perception of the possible negative consequences from the risk.

There are notable exceptions, such as measures that assess risk in various domains (e.g., DOSPERT scale; Weber et al., 2002) and assess perception of possible benefits (e.g., Fromme et al., 1997). There has also been research into the various dimensions or facets of risk perception, such as whether a person believes that they have more control in one activity over another (e.g., Benthin et al., 1993; Fischhoff et al.,1978; Hampson et al., 2001). Grounded in Balance Theory (Janis & Mann, 1977), the current project utilized knowledge from these previous studies to create the Holistic Assessment of Risk Perception (HARP Scale) that assesses possible negative consequences, possible positive benefits, and the various facets of risk perception across risk domains.

This project involved a series of studies that collectively used thematic analyses of interview data to identify the various facets involved in risk perception (e.g., controllability of situation, past experience) while ensuring that the identified facets were not conflated with cognitive biases or risk-taking behaviour, and then used the identified facets to create a scale and perform a psychometric evaluation to determine the reliability and validity of the new scale. Specifically, Study 1 was performed in two parts. Study 1-A assessed the extent of possible confounds using participant scores on various measures, such as measures of cognitive bias and risk propensity. The participants from Study 1-A were then used as the sampling frame for Study 1-B, which recruited participants in order to form four groups that were relatively equal in gender and other possible confounds. Participants in these four groups were then interviewed for the purpose of identifying risk-perception facets (e.g., controllability of the situation) that were common across the four groups. In Study 2 the scale items were refined, and an unsuccessful attempt was made to use quantitative data to verify the weighting of the facets that had been identified in Study 1-B. The final scale was brought forward for psychometric evaluation in Study 3, which provided evidence in support of the convergent validity, discriminant validity, concurrent validity, and internal reliability of the new HARP Scale.

In sum, the current project has provided a relatively parsimonious measurement tool that enables research into various risk domains, acknowledges both potential consequences and benefits, assesses facets that contribute to risk perception, and does not conflate cognitive bias or risk-taking behaviour with risk perception. The resulting HARP Scale is able to assess whether people perceive an activity as a good risk, or a bad risk.

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