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Sociology

In: Psychology

Submitted By collios
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Pages 8
HOW PEOPLE USE EXPERT AND LAY KNOWLEDGE ABOUT RISK IN ORDER TO LIVE WITH THEM
Your above title works fine though you also need to include a table of contents. See example in assignment booklet. I see you include this at the end but this should be place here at the start of your report. Perhaps this was a computer error in your lay out?

1. INTRODUCTION

We are all familiar with the fact that risk is a part of everyday life. Risk is evident in all walks of life from road traffic accidents, to terrorist attacks at airports, to leaks of radiation at nuclear power plants also well as health scares from MRSA. Risk is so prevalent today that we are said to live in a ‘Risk Society’. This has been defined as ‘an account of contemporary society that emphasizes the development of the side effects of modernisation and the growth of many people's awareness of risk.’ You need to include a source reference for this quotation. A lot of risks are invisible, like for example, radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear accident, so there is an absolute reliance on expert knowledge in order to manage people’s anxiety. Perhaps a reference to Beck’s theory could be included here. He argues that as society has become increasingly complex, we look to experts to help us with assessing risks.

How we make sense of, manage and incorporate risk into our life is a focus of this report and a number of case studies will be examined to determine how both expert and lay knowledge is used to manage risk. We shall see that the provision of knowledge by experts is not necessarily accepted by people who tend to assimilate the knowledge provided in their own different ways. Yes this is an important point which needs to be demonstrated.

2. MANAGING RISK: Soil Different tests, different outcomes (perhaps the issue of expert uncertainty could be incorporated into your sub-heading here.

People are always making decisions about managing risk and the more uncertain a situation is, the more they will rely on experts and the knowledge they possess to help them to manage the risk. Uncertainty, defined as ‘ignorance of, or a lack of precision regarding the consequences of an activity’, plays an increasing role in our lives. Uncertainty among expert opinion would also be relevant to this point.

2.1 Changing economies

As we have moved from the industrial economy to the knowledge economy our focus has changed according to the sociologist Ulrich Beck who examined the subject of risk, and our materialistic society has changed from the distribution of goods and income to the distribution of risk, or to put it another way ‘from the distribution of goods to the distribution of bads’. (audio cd, track4, 2010).

2.2 Different soil tests, same soil

This notion of uncertainty was shown quite vividly in the case of the allotment Case study. London Borough Council had provided this amenity to the people of London and it was very popular. People using the scheme were naturally quite happy and proud to be growing their own vegetables and were quite shocked when they were informed by the council that following tests carried out by the Environmental agency that the soil had been poisoned by arsenic and were advised to stop interacting with the soil until they could fix the problem, by possibly replacing the soil. You need to include a source reference here. As this evidence is from chapter 2 the reference is (Carter and Jordan, 2009, p.64) In processing this news, the people using the allotment had a very simple decision to make : to stop or to continue. This decision is straight forward – most growers stopped using the facility. However, uncertainty was introduced into the situation when another communication was sent from the council informing the growers that following the use of another test PBET (physiologically based extraction test) the soil in the allotment was indeed safe and growers could continue as normal. Now, since the soil had not changed in any way during the time of the first communication and the second, this caused a lot of people to be very unsure about what exactly they should do and a lot of growers – including the writer of the course text- stopped using the allotment because of the uncertainty introduced by the experts (even though the second test was good) since these experts could not agree on a definitive test that would demonstrate definitively to the growers that the soil was safe. You could highlight that in situations of expert uncertainty, people have to rely on their own lay knowledge to decide what action to take.

3. MANAGING RISK : Sun ( and the response of lay knowledge to expert opinion)

3.1 Real risk and symbolic risk.

Another case study which was examined was the risk involved in sun tanning in Glasgow. An interesting aspect of a finding from a study run by Simon Bromley for the Medical Research Council was that people in Glasgow were aware of the serious risks involved in using sun beds including melanoma and other cancers. Research carried out by the Cancer society found that people could remember health education advice about the need to avoid skin exposure to sun by seeking shade using a sunscreen and covering up when out in the sun in order to minimise the risk of getting these type of cancers. However although this expert information was available people chose to accept and use it in their own particular way. Key point. The people involved weighed up the actual risk of cancer against the symbolic risk of being seen by other people as ‘peelie wally’ on holiday. You could stress here what this case study tells us about the relationship between lay knowledge and expert knowledge. In this case people drew on their own lay knowledge about sun tans as being healthy to dismiss expert advice that too much sun could be dangerous.

3.2 Sun Tanning Salons No need for this heading here. The following could have been incorporated into the above section.

People continued to visit a tanning salon prior to their holiday to have a tanned look when they went on holiday and were willing to take a risk that there would be no adverse effects, even though the expert knowledge warned against this practise. The health risk was balanced against the social embarrassment of them ‘having a pale and unhealthy appearance’. (Carter, 2009 p.75)

4. MANAGING RISK : disease or Epidemology and the response of Lay Knowledge.

4.1 Risk factors for disease

Another area that tells us many things about how people manage risk is the area of epidemiology. Put simply, epidemiology is the study of any factors which contribute to disease, illness and death in the human population. For example, epidemiologists might be interested in the probability of a person developing coronary heart disease and would examine causal factors (like diet, genetics and the environment) to work out the probability of someone’s chance of it developing.

Epidemiology as a science has been incredibly powerful in shaping government policy in relation to health, food and drugs because it puts expert knowledge in the hands of members of the government. Good point.

2. Prevention Paradox and lay knowledge

Often public health campaigns highlight areas of general public concern in relation to health for example smoking campaigns and attempt to change people’s behaviour. Since there is only a probabilistic link between smoking and lung cancer and not a deterministic one, not every one who smokes is going to end up developing this disease. However, public health campaigns have to target each individual smoker in order to be effective, in much the same way that every young child had to be immunised for diphtheria in the 1940’s even though only 1 child in 600 would catch the disease. But because that one child could not be isolated, 600 vaccinations had to be used to ensure mass immunisation. This figure included 599 ‘wasted’ vaccinations which were used on children who would never have gotten the disease in the first place. You could include a source reference to the chapter here using same format as above) This has been termed the prevention paradox which is that 'any measure that brings large benefits to the community offers little to each participating individual'. (Rose, 1981, p. 1850 as cited by Carter, Jones 2010, p 87). How this expert information is absorbed by the public is influenced by people talking to each other and using ‘uncle norman’ type stories eg. My uncle Norman smoked and drank and ate a fry every morning and lived ‘til he was 92”, or ‘the last person’ – ‘he ran 3 miles every day and he’s the last person you’d expect to have a heart attack.’ These anecdotal statements do affect how people deal with expert knowledge and quite often they neutralise any of the benefits of public information campaigns since smoking and eating food which is bad for the heart is for a lot of people a pleasurable experience and ‘Uncle Norman’ stories can help to rationalise this behaviour. Yes, this would show the relationship between expert and lay knowledge.

CONCLUSION

In this report we looked at the area of risk and by looking at case studies in the area of food, sun tanning and epidemiology we were able to examine how people use expert knowledge and lay knowledge when dealing with risk in modern society. Here you could highlight some of the different aspects of the relationship between expert and lay knowledge which the above case studies demonstrated.

REFERENCES good

‘A risky world’ (2009) Exploring Social Lives [Audio cd 1], Milton Keynes, the Open University.

Bromley S. Jeffries E, Meegan J. and Staples M (2009) Learning Companion 3 Introducing the Social Sciences , Milton Keynes, The Open University.

Carter S. and Jordan T. (2009) ‘Living with risk and risky living’ in Bromley, S., Clarke J., Hinchcliffe, S. and Taylor S. (Eds) Exploring Social Lives, Milton Keynes, The Open University.

Write a report on “HOW PEOPLE USE EXPERT AND LAY KNOWLEDGE ABOUT RISK IN ORDER TO LIVE WITH THEM”
See comments above on how some of these headings could have been linked more to the issue of expert and lay knowledge.
1. Introduction 1
2. Managing Risk – Soil 1 2.1 Changing Economies 1 2.2 Different soil tests, same soil 1
3. Managing Risk – Sun 3.1 Real risk and symbolic Risk 2 3.2 Sun Tanning Salons 2
4. Managing Risk _Disease 4.1 Risk factors for disease 3 4.2 The Prevention Paradox 3
5. Conclusion 4
6. References 4

SELF EVALUATION

Another very challenging assignment. I enjoyed the course material as usual and the subject area wasn’t one I would have generally been interested in before now – but in the context of the course it is valuable to have a knowledge of the area of risk. Good o

I’m still finding it difficult to construct an argument and I wasn’t sure if I had hit all the target areas in this assignment. I have done reports before and I hope its what is required. You did fine overall but see comments on how some of your points could have been connected more to the question.

Colm Grogan
10 Foxborough Lawn
Lucan South
Co. Dublin

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