Mistrust, uncertainty and health risks

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30 Citations (SciVal)


Aspects of the relationship between mistrust, uncertainty and risk responses are examined. Identity Process Theory and Social Representation Theory are used to explain risk responses. The operation of mistrust, defined here as an active state of uncertainty about whether a source or its assertions are to be believed, is examined. Mistrust can also be a cognitive or emotional trait of a person, associated with being habitually suspicious, doubtful, or sceptical, and, as such, can be a preferred strategy for coping with threats to identity. The relationship between mistrust and uncertainty in shaping responses to health risks is examined. An illustration using media reporting of MMR vaccine hesitancy during 2019 is described. This indicated: politicians and health experts sometimes mistrust the public’s reaction to risk guidance; uncertainty once established is resilient against remediation; and, targeting of mistrust and blame is purposive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-516
Number of pages13
JournalContemporary Social Science
Issue number5
Early online date4 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • identity
  • Mistrust
  • MMR
  • risk
  • social representation
  • uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Social Sciences(all)


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