Paul Slovic is a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon and a founder and President of Decision Research. He holds a B.A. from Stanford University (1959) and an M.A (1962) and Ph.D. (1964) from the University of Michigan.He studies human judgment, decision making, and the psychology of risk. His most recent work examines “psychic numbing” and the failure to respond to mass human tragedies. With colleagues worldwide, he has developed methods to describe risk perceptions and measure their impacts on individuals and society. He publishes extensively and serves as a consultant to industry and government. He is a past President of the Society for Risk Analysis and in 1991 received its Distinguished Contribution Award. In 1993 he received the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association. In 1995 he received the Outstanding Contribution to Science Award from the Oregon Academy of Science. He has received honorary doctorates from the Stockholm School of Economics (1996) and the University of East Anglia (2005). He was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2015.

Research Interests

I have studied the psychology of risk and decision making for more than half a century. My earliest studies examined choices among simple gambles. I later began to study society's complex gambles associated with natural disasters, technology, medicine, and violence. My current research examines the interaction between two fundamental ways in which human beings comprehend risk. Analytic thinking uses algorithms and normative rules, such as the probability calculus, formal logic, and risk assessment. It is relatively slow, effortful, and requires conscious control. Experiential thinking is intuitive, fast, often automatic, and not very accessible to conscious awareness. Experiential thinking enabled human beings to survive during their long period of evolution and remains today the most natural and most common way to respond to risk. It relies on images and associations, linked by experience to emotion and affect. It represents risk as a feeling that tells us whether it's safe to walk down this dark street or drink this strange-smelling water. Such feelings are an important guide to risk-taking behavior and, like visual perceptions they are typically fast, accurate, and rational. Yet, also like perceptions, our feelings systematically fail us in certain important situations. My research describes these failings and ways to overcome them in the face of risks as diverse as cigarette smoking and large scale natural and human caused disasters.

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Primary Section

Section 52: Psychological and Cognitive Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 64: Human Environmental Sciences