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Uncertainty and Risk Are Multidimensional: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic
Journal of Public Policy & Marketing  (IF4.5),  Pub Date : 2020-05-28, DOI: 10.1177/0743915620930007
David W. Stewart

The COVID-19 pandemic is a generational phenomenon, a defining experience for those who have experienced it. Much will be written about the causes and effects of the pandemic as additional data become available. Although not deliberate, there are quasi-experiments underway related to alternative societal responses to the pandemic, such as the reduction of economic and social activity, the degree of social distancing, and the focus of social distancing efforts. It is too early for any comprehensive analysis of the effects of and response to the pandemic. Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learned or, at least, remembered. This commentary offers a discussion of four of these lessons: (1) the differences between uncertainty and risk, (2) the multidimensionality of both uncertainty and risk and responses to them, (3) the multilayered character of risk management and public policy response, and (4) the role of marketing in the management of risk and uncertainty.