ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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Developing an intuitive test of food hazard perceptions

Caroline Millman, Dan Rigby, David Jones

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 8 - Law Building, Room 100
Date: 2012-07-10 01:30 PM – 03:00 PM
Last modified: 2011-12-15


Social Science research frequently involves the use of surveys and interviews to elicit views, values, awareness and knowledge. While refined survey methods seek to induce accurate and honest responses there is extensive literature highlighting the contrasts between self reported behaviour and preferences in such surveys and what people do in their routine life.

These contrasts have been hypothesised to have many causes including inter alia social desirability bias, hypothetical bias and observer bias. Such contrasts and contradictions may stem from the type of thinking the research process prompts in the subject. This may mean that while in routine behaviour people employ cognitive systems of intuition (System 1 thinking) the research process prompts them to employ System 2 thinking, and hence there is a switch from intuition and heuristics to a more reasoned approach.

In this paper we critically review the methods typically used to elicit hazard perceptions and knowledge. We set out and test a new technique to elicit hazard perception, one which is rooted in the theory of Situation Awareness and Implicit as opposed to Explicit Attitudes. The approach uses an online survey which respondents watch and engage with a film, in real-time, via mouse clicks. The film includes hazardous and non-hazardous behaviours and the system records the time and spatial location of the respondents’ clicks which represent their identification of hazards within the film. The respondents’ click data are combined with the hazards’ true temporal and spatial coordinates to allow analysis of hazard perceptions. The analysis is conducted for specific hazards, respondents or groups of respondents (for example experts versus public).

Whilst this ‘view and click’ approach is entirely generic, we use it here to elicit knowledge of food safety hazards in the home. The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has identified improved domestic food safety as critical to reducing levels of foodborne disease. The footage used in this piloting of the system involves food preparation in the domestic kitchen. Given that food preparation in the home is habitual in nature, it offers an excellent initial focus for the approach. In addition to the analysis of hazard awareness at the level of the hazard or individual, we analyse the (in)consistency between respondents' self reported levels of food safety knowledge and risk and that revealed by their click behaviour. Further we analyse the patterns of respondents’ adjustment of those self perceptions having completed the click survey.