How to deliver public warnings

July 23, 2017

New research reveals that New Zealand institutions are failing to deliver effective public communication about imminent natural hazards.


Most of us know the story of the boy who cried wolf. In the versions popularized in the 1500s, the tale-telling boy is not believed when a wolf does appear. In some versions of the story there really is a wolf, but the villagers create such a racket that it is warned and slinks away unharmed.

Either way, the “boy who cried wolf” has become a phrase meaning that people learn from experience not to trust those whose stories turn out false.

We were reminded of this morality tale amidst the public alarm generated in response to Cyclone Cook, which moved over New Zealand in April this year, and the Kaikoura earthquake last November.

It got us wondering – just how effective are warnings to the public from authorities and companies? Are people less likely to believe warnings when some turn out to be exaggerated or false?


We decided to review the existing literature and run our own survey of the behavior of New Zealanders.


Click here to see the full report: How to deliver public warnings