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Living with extreme weather events : an exploratory study of psychological factors in at-risk communities in the UK and Belize.

Wilmshurst, Jacqui (2011) Living with extreme weather events : an exploratory study of psychological factors in at-risk communities in the UK and Belize. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Questionnaire surveys and semi-structured interviews were conducted in flood risk areas in the UK and hurricane risk areas in Belize, Central America. The research was designed as a cross-hazard, cross-cultural study of psychological factors contributing to responses to the risks of extreme weather events (EWEs) as no other studies comprising all of these elements were found in a review of the literature. The main research themes, based on information gathered from at-risk communities, from experts in the field of Disaster Risk Reduction (ORR) and from applied literature across a number of disciplines involved in ORR were; the role of prior experience, attributions of responsibility of and for self and others, trust, community and place attachment, engagement in preparedness behaviours and decision making style. Based on an identified overlap between EWEs and climate change research, a section on beliefs about climate change and the wider natural environment was included. The research was exploratory to assist in the design of more focused future studies and the application of existing psychological theory to the context of EWEs. Results showed that the themes of prior experience, trust and place attachment emerged the most strongly. Decision-making did not show the expected links with other themes. Gender differences were found particularly in perceptions of risk, as found in previous risk perception research and in reported engagement in preparedness behaviours. This has important implications for the design of risk communication strategies. Engagement in preparedness behaviours, whilst intended to be a central theme was not able to be used as intended, as it was constrained in its value in this study by being a subjective measure. The Belize sample showed more positive attitudes across the study themes, but it is difficult to ascertain if this was a reflection of true differences or of a difference in the way in which surveys are completed. Further research is needed on this theme. Additional country-specific issues were raised by the qualitative study in Belize, such as the importance of development issues and of traditional knowledge in the management of risks. Results offer both useful descriptive information for application to policy and give direction and focus for the development of future studies designed to apply psychological theory to the problems posed by human interaction with natural hazards. Outline suggestions for a number of future studies are provided, centring on further and more detailed exploration of the major emergent themes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Science (Sheffield) > Psychology (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.537991
Depositing User: EThOS Import Sheffield
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2019 11:18
Last Modified: 11 Sep 2019 11:18
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/21835

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