Cultural Differences in Risk Perception: An Examination of USA and Ghanaian Perception of Risk Communication

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Virginia Tech

The increase in globalization and trade among larger industrialized countries and smaller developing countries has increased the awareness and need to better communicate risk and hazard information for consumer and manufacturing products. The purpose of this research was to examine cultural differences associated with risk communication and risk perception. The research observed cultural differences in hazard perception associated with color, signal words, and symbols among industry workers from the United States of America and the Republic of Ghana. The research also examined the perception of risk associated with general everyday statements as well as locus of control.

A total of 96 industry workers from both the USA and the Republic of Ghana participated in this study (USA = 46, Ghana = 50). Four different hypotheses were tested in this research. The hypotheses that were tested focused on risk perception (21 items) and locus of control (9 items), hazard perception and attention-getting for 6 symbols (carefulness, severity of injury implied, and understanding were also measured for the symbols) and 16 hazard signs. A pair wise comparison was used in one portion of the study in which 120 different signal word and color combination hazard signs were used. A nine-point Likert-type scale was used to evaluate the risk perception items. A four point Likert-type scale was used to measure locus of control.

The results from the study concluded that there are significant differences between the two cultures and the way individuals perceive risk, perceive hazards associated symbols, evaluate hazard signs, and locus of control. A total risk perception score as well as individual risk perception scores were calculated for the 21 items using an independent sample t-test. The results for the total risk perception revealed significant differences between the two groups (t (84) = 6.43, p < .0001) with the participants from the USA having an overall higher risk perception with the mean equaling 6.39 and the participants from Ghana equaling 5.28.

Significant findings such as those from the risk perception portion of this study as well as other significant findings in this study will contribute to suggested guidelines and implications for safety training in a global work environment. Such guidelines and implications include using the SKULL symbol instead of the MR YUCK symbol to communicate hazard in Ghana and suggesting that the BOLT and ELECTRIC SHOCK symbol can be used interchangeably.

risk perception, safety, cultural differences, cultural ergonomics, globalization, hazard signs, risk communications, warnings