RISK HOMEOSTASIS


This is the theory that humans behave in such a way that if a risk is identified in a given system, and is reduced by design, then a compensatory increase in risk-taking will occur somewhere else in the system. Thus, in an experiment in Germany, drivers of taxis provided with better brakes tended to drive worse than drivers not so supplied, although their accident rate remained constant.

If the theory is correct, this may pose problems for the Reform The Environment approach, unless the converse formulation is applied, and careful driving is elicited by introducing difficulties, as happened when Sweden changed to driving on the right, resulting in 17% less road deaths in the first year. (Guardian, 26 January 1996)

A similar phenomenon was hypothesized four years later in respect of condom use and risk-taking (Guardian, 28 January 2000).

The psychology of risk is also discussed by Sutherland.



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Paul Taylor 2001