Outrage factor

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In public policy, outrage factor is a term that describes public opposition to a policy that is not based on the knowledge of the technical details.

The term "outrage factor" originates from Peter Sandman's 1993 book, Responding to Community Outrage: Strategies for Effective Risk Communication.[1][2]

"Outrage factors" are the emotional factors that influence perception of risk. The risks that are considered involuntary, industrial and unfair are often given more weight than factors that are thought of as voluntary, natural and fair.

Sandman gives the formula:[3]

Risk = Hazard + Outrage

Risk communications[edit]

While policy analysis by institutional stakeholders typically focuses on risk-benefit analysis and cost-benefit analysis, popular risk perception is not informed by the same concerns. The successful implementation of a policy relying on public support and cooperation must address the outrage factor when informing the public about the policy.

In an interview with New York Times journalist and Freakonomics author Stephen J. Dubner, Sandman emphasized "the most important truth in risk communication is the exceedingly low correlation between whether a risk is dangerous, and whether it’s upsetting."[3]

The relevance of public outrage has been acknowledged in discussions of various policy debates, including nuclear safety,[4] terrorism,[5] public health[6][7] and environmental management.[1][2]

As of February 2012, Responding to Community Outrage was online under a Creative Commons license, and may be freely accessed and downloaded on Sandman's website.

Around the year 2000, Sandman worked together with a small Australian risk consultancy called Qest Consulting to release 'OUTRAGE' software. It was meant to help organizations fearing stakeholder outrage to avoid getting into trouble. It is now available as freeware.[8]



  1. ^ a b Nebel, Bernard J.; Richard T. Wright (1993). Environmental science: the way the world works (4th ed.). Prentice Hall PTR. pp. 392–3. ISBN 0-13-285446-5. 
  2. ^ a b Hird, John A. (1994). Superfund: the political economy of environmental risk. JHU Press. p. 70. ISBN 0-8018-4807-5. 
  3. ^ a b Stephen J. Dubner (2011-11-29). "Risk = Hazard + Outrage: A Conversation with Risk Consultant Peter Sandman". 
  4. ^ Williams, David R. (1998). What is safe?: the risks of living in a nuclear age. Royal Society of Chemistry. p. 39. ISBN 0-85404-569-4. 
  5. ^ Kayyem, Juliette; Robyn L. Pangi (2003). First to arrive: state and local responses to terrorism. BCSIA studies in international security. MIT Press. p. 68. ISBN 0-262-61195-3. 
  6. ^ Milloy, Steven J. (1995). Science without sense: the risky business of public health research. Cato Institute. p. 8. ISBN 1-882577-34-5. 
  7. ^ David, Pencheon; David Melzer; Charles Guest; Muir Gray (2006). Oxford handbook of public health practice. Oxford handbooks (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 221. ISBN 0-19-856655-7. 
  8. ^ "Peter Sandman: OUTRAGE Prediction and Management Software". www.psandman.com. Retrieved 2016-05-19. 

See also[edit]