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How stories and storytelling can be used to convey risk and effective risk communication

Stories and storytelling have long since been effective tools for communicating risk from childhood Brothers Grimm fairy tales to cautionary stories online and in the news. We wish to evaluate the relevance of stories to lab safety culture


Stories and storytelling play a significant role in our lives. Stories about others are not as compelling as those in which we have a stake. We want to study how stories about ourselves impact how we frame risk perceptions. Technology now allows us to embed ourselves into a story for personal impact.


We will design a study using fictionalized stories about lab researchers. Participants will be randomly assigned to different stories with differing risk profiles and decisions made by the story’s characters. Using pre- and post-study surveys and interviews, we hope to assess the usefulness of stories to communicate risk and influence risk perceptions and ultimately lab safety culture. We will use stories with 2-3 options at critical inflection points. We will study the choices that the researchers make in choosing the story directions.


Our goals are to better understand the choices that researchers make relative to risk and safety and how to influence these choices. Our goal is to create an app that facilitates embedding the reader into the actual story. The app will also create inflection points where the reader has to make and commit to choices in the stories path. If these choices are influenced by using stories, there may be improved methods for providing safety training and communicating in general.

Stories and storytelling have a long and rich history – around the communal fire, Aesop, the Brothers Grimm, and Mother Goose all come to mind. Stories have been shown to be much more effective and affective in “moving” people to make choices and changes. We hope to create fictionalized stories about lab work gone wrong that will allow lab researchers to view risk and lab safety culture differently than they usually do. If successful the technique may be able to be implemented much more widely in new and innovative ways. Stay tuned for our next story installment!


We welcome outside funding to be able to devote adequate time to creating compelling and “rich” stories that are effective and affective. We are also interested in funding to develop an app to facilitate the storytelling decision making process. Feel free to contact us for more details about funding such an app.


The Story Telling project is being carried out by Jonathan Klane and Andrew Maynard. Jonathan is the Assistant Director for Safety Programs in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU, and is particularly interested in innovative ways of reducing risks through a culture of safety. He is also pursuing a PhD in the Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology


Jonathan Klane, M.S.Ed., CIH, CSP, CHMM, CET
Assistant Director for Safety Programs in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, ASU

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