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What Do We Know About Making Risk Comparisons?
The risks of unfamiliar technologies are often evaluated by comparing them with the risks of more familiar ones. Such risk comparisons have been criticized for neglecting critical dimensions of risky decisions. In a guide written for the Chemical Manufacturers Association, Covello et al.(1) have summarized these critiques and developed a taxonomy that characterizes possible risk comparisons in terms of their acceptability (or objectionableness). We asked four diverse groups of subjects to judge the acceptability of 14 statements produced by Covello et al. as examples of their categories. We found no correlation between the judgments of acceptability produced by our subjects and those predicted by Covello et al..