Behavioral Analysis

Risk Perception and Communication

The interdisciplinary theme of Risk Perception and Communication is dedicated to advancing understanding of the dynamic relationships between public response, societal consequences, and risk and crisis communication in the event of a disaster. CREATE's research objectives in this theme are to formulate a better understanding of how the public perceives the risk associated with disaster events (both terror and non-terror), and assess the influence this has on their beliefs relative to these events, their notions of risk perceptions, and their behavioral decision-making, both in the immediate and in the long-term.


Dr. Detlof von Winterfeldt is a Professor at the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering of the Viterbi School of Engineering and a Professor of Public Policy and Management at the Price School of Public Policy at USC. In 2004 he co-founded the National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE), the first university-based Center of Excellence funded by the US Department of Homeland Security. Read More.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Dr. Richard John serves as the Associate Director for Research at CREATE, professor in the Department of Psychology at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences at USC and as a Research Fellow at CREATE. His research focuses on normative and descriptive models of human judgment and decision making and methodological issues in application of decision and probabilistic risk analysis (PRA). Read More.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Dr. Robin Dillon-Merrill is a Professor in the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and Area Coordinator for the Operations and Information Management Group. Professor Dillon-Merrill seeks to understand and explain how and why people make the decisions that they do under conditions of uncertainty and risk. Read More.


Dr. William Burns completed his Ph.D. at the University of Oregon in Decision Science and subsequently held positions as a professor at the University of Iowa and UC Davis before moving to San Diego. He is currently a research scientist at Decision Research (Eugene, OR), an institute that focuses on judgment, decision making and risk perception, and is also associated with the National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE at USC) where he has been named a CREATE Fellow and contributes to the risk assessment, risk perception and economic impact research. Read More.

Sample Papers

Countering Violent Extremism and Terrorism

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) ultimately requires efforts consisting of an integrated collection of programs and policies that help prevent terrorism and deter individuals at risk of recruitment and radicalization. The primary goal of this theme is to reduce extremist violence and terrorist activity by developing cogent, forward-thinking policies that take a nuanced approach to violent extremism by exploring its origins and identifying the best methods for interrupting those on the pathway to violence. The efforts in this theme consist of research on the behavioral and environmental factors that influence an individual’s proclivity toward joining terrorist networks in the United States or traveling to fight abroad.


Dr. Erroll Southers is a Professor of the Practice of Governance and Director of Homegrown Violent Extremism Studies in the Sol Price School of Public Policy’s Safe Communities Institute (SCI) at the University of Southern California. Read More. 


Foreign Fighter Recruitment Qualitative Study

This research effort seeks to advance the understanding of the foreign fighter recruitment dynamic in a specific United States municipality. To best understand the cultural, socioeconomic and community factors that coalesce to create a vulnerable target in the selected community, the research and analysis effort focuses on two primary parties: the recruiters (the adversary) and the community CVE actors (the defender). The goal is to understand the factors recruiters leverage to attract a foreign fighter and how defenders address these factors to thwart recruitment activities.

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