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Trusting and Taking Risks: a Philosophical Inquiry
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology.
2007 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation is a philosophical contribution to the theories on trust and on risk communication. The importance of trust in risk communication has been argued for and empirically studied since the 80s. However, there is little agreement on the notion of trust and the precise function of trust. This thesis sets out to study both aspects from a philosophical point of view. The dissertation consists of five essays and an introduction.

Essay I is a comment on risk perception theory and the psychometric model in particular. The essay argues that sometimes individuals take risks simply because they are in a vulnerable position and have no other choice. Four factors are identified as crucial in risks from vulnerability: poor outset conditions, lack of reasonable options, hope and liability to disinformation.

Essay II addresses the democratic approach to risk communication and the ideal of risk communication as a dialogue between more or less equal stakeholders. The essay develops a typology of different risk communication practices and influence distributions and concludes that the form of risk communication most commonly referred to in the literature is of the most imbalanced kind where all three types of influence falls to the same party.

Essay III argues that trust can be understood as comfortable defocusing. Trust as comfortable defocusing means that when a person trusts, he or she is comfortable with letting certain things be in the hands or in the control of the trusted other. Departing from this idea a definition of trust is proposed consisting of three elements: (i) the truster’s comfortable defocusing from the trusted person’s part of caring for X, based on a (ii) belief about the trusted person’s care for X, concerning (iii) something of concern to the truster.

Essay IV explores the concept of trustworthiness and under which conditions trust can be betrayed in a morally justified way. It is argued that two aspects are essential for every reasonable notion of trustworthiness: reliability in terms of commitment to trust and predictability in terms of compliance with norms. In order to be untrustworthy in a morally justified way two major conditions need to be fulfilled: first, what is expected from the trustee needs to be either immoral or part of an ongoing immoral or unjust relationship between truster and trustee and, secondly, the trustee must not be in a position to explicitly reject trust.

Essay V examines two of the most employed distinctions within the trust literature, that of trust/confidence and of trust/reliance. These distinctions are evaluated against a set of five criteria. It is argued that both these distinctions are employed to cover several distinguishing properties, thus adding to conceptual confusion.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH , 2007. , vi, 31 p.
Series
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1650-8831 ; 24
Keyword [en]
beliefs, comfortable defocusing, disposition, power, public trust, risk
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-4567ISBN: 978-91-7178-773-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-4567DiVA: diva2:12892
Public defence
2007-12-14, Sal D2, KTH, Lindstedtsvägen 5, Stockholm, 13:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20100712Available from: 2007-12-07 Created: 2007-12-07 Last updated: 2010-07-13Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Out of the ashes: hope and vulnerability as explanatory factors in individual risk taking
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Out of the ashes: hope and vulnerability as explanatory factors in individual risk taking
2006 (English)In: Journal of Risk Research, ISSN 1366-9877, E-ISSN 1466-4461, Vol. 9, no 3, 189-204 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

High individual risk taking, whether in terms of life-style risks or others, has often been explained in terms of acceptance of risks or misperception of the possible negative outcome. This article challenges this view, and points to a kind of risks that does not seem to fit this explanation. These risks are referred to as risks from vulnerability. They are taken because there are no positive alternatives to them, and the choice is perceived as having an element of hope. A new framework is proposed in order to expand these explanatory factors within the risk perception research. This framework analyzes individual risk taking in terms of: poor outset conditions, lack of reasonable options, hope, and liability to disinformation.

Keyword
risk; risk perception; individual risk taking; vulnerability; risk communication; hope; reasonable options; disinformation; risks from vulnerability
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-5763 (URN)10.1080/13669870500419537 (DOI)000237805200001 ()2-s2.0-33646464225 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20100713Available from: 2006-05-19 Created: 2006-05-19 Last updated: 2010-07-13Bibliographically approved
2. Asymmetries in risk communication
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Asymmetries in risk communication
2006 (English)In: Risk management, ISSN 1460-3799, Vol. 8, 1-15 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The concept of risk communication has come to comprise more than conveying technical or scientific information to the public. It can also include newer forms such as public participation, joint decision-making, and two-way dialogue forums. Previous discussions on risk communication have distinguished between two different approaches, namely the democratic versus the technical one. In the present paper, it is argued that despite these recent attempts to widen the scope and objectives of risk communication, risk communication is primarily, in most cases, a relationship between unequal parties. This inequality is analysed through a threefold distinction of asymmetries in terms of communicative initiative, informational privilege, and risk influence. A preliminary model for understanding the different inequalities in the risk communication situation is developed.

Keyword
risk communication, democratic approach, two-way communication, influence, asymmetry
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-5764 (URN)10.1057/palgrave.rm.8250002 (DOI)
Note
QC 20100713. Uppdaterad från In press till Published 20100713.Available from: 2006-05-19 Created: 2006-05-19 Last updated: 2010-07-13Bibliographically approved
3. Trust as comfortable defocusing
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Trust as comfortable defocusing
(English)Manuscript (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This paper addresses the conflict between on the one hand the standard view of trust as expectations about the person trusted and about his or her motivations and one the other hand trust as characterised by an absence of thought about the motivations of the trustee. I argue that the standard view provides too much cognitive content into the mind of the truster and misconstrue the phenomenon of trust. The reasons that may motivate the truster to trust and the normative requirements on the truster are not characteristics of trust as such. There is no common set of expectations not even on the motivations of the trustee that applies to all cases of trust.

Instead I shall propose an alternative view of trust that I call trust as comfortable defocusing. On this view what is common to all cases of trust is the tendency to be defocused from the object of trust. Trust releases us from the need to pay mental attention to what has been entrusted. It is the belief that the object of trust is in the hands of another person that brings about a state of comfortable defocus over a matter that otherwise would be of great concern, worry or action. This account argues that to trust is to defocus from the object of trust as long as, and because it is, under the care of another person. It is this delegated agency and defocus that constitutes the nature of trust.

National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-5765 (URN)
Note
QC 20100713. Manuskript presenterat (men ej publicerat) vid bla. ESPP 2006 i Belfast (23-27 augusti) och The Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association 2010 Joint Session, Dublin (9-11 July).Available from: 2006-05-19 Created: 2006-05-19 Last updated: 2010-07-13Bibliographically approved
4. Morally Justified Untrustworthiness
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Morally Justified Untrustworthiness
(English)Manuscript (Other academic)
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-7767 (URN)
Note
QC 20100713Available from: 2007-12-07 Created: 2007-12-07 Last updated: 2010-07-13Bibliographically approved
5. Un-confusing the Notion of Trust
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Un-confusing the Notion of Trust
(English)Manuscript (Other academic)
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-7768 (URN)
Note
QC 20100713Available from: 2007-12-07 Created: 2007-12-07 Last updated: 2010-07-13Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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