Received: 06 March 2016 / Accepted: 16 September 2016/ Published online: 16 November 2016
Contemporary risk communication practice has recognized the public as partners; consequently, understanding how the public or laypeople perceive risks has become paramount.
One method of unearthing the public’s risk perception is the mental models approach to risk communication. This approach has been found adaptable to the development of risk communication messages on climate change for rice farmers in Pangasinan Province, Philippines. As such, risk communicators should include the mental models approach among their tools.
Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino Psychology) or SP methods open up possibilities for more culturally appropriate and sensitive elicitation methods in the mental models approach.
The mental models approach has been put forward as a method for investigating laypeople’s knowledge, beliefs, and perception as precursor to the development of risk communication messages and strategies. Using means-ends analysis, the paper assessed the adaptability of the mental models approach to the development of risk communication messages on climate change for rice farmers in a village in the province of Pangasinan. Overall, the mental models approach was adaptable as it made possible the systematic and in-depth elicitation of relevant knowledge and beliefs on climate change of both the experts and rice farmers, as argued by its proponents. Likewise, the mental models interviews provided an opportunity for a candid discussion with rice farmer-respondents. It also facilitated the identification of knowledge gaps and misconceptions, paving the way for a focused climate change risk communications. Insights on how the adaptability of the approach may be enhanced were discussed. Among these are the need to ensure that the richness and complexity of interviews with experts and laypeople would still guide climate change communication; the importance of an interdisciplinary team in crafting climate change risk communications; and the possibilities opened up by Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Filipino Psychology) or SP methods for more culturally appropriate and sensitive elicitation methods in the mental models approach.