Risk-Managing Decision-Making: A Psycho-Social Rationality Model

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Social workers are frequently involved in making decisions and in managing risks, although there has been limited conceptualisation to connect these tasks with each other or with assessment processes. This lack of connection reflects the general separateness of the wider academic discourses on risk and uncertainty (often sociological and organisational, relating frequently to business or economic contexts) and those on decisionmaking (often focusing on psychology of individual judgement, and typically relating to medical or military contexts). This article presents and explores the potential of a 'riskmanaging decision model', as an example of a model linking risk management with decision science. This is a psycho-social rationality model for choosing between options, such as possible care, support or intervention plans for a client or family. Rather than treating the options as 'given' (i.e. unchangeable), as in most decision theories, this model proposes that the decision maker(s) look for ways to manage or reduce the risks inherent in the preferred option as part of the decision process. Like other psycho-social rationality models, this model incorporates both individual cognitive dimensions and framing aspects of the decision environment. Relevance to social work is discussed with examples and reference to various settings and decision processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2819–2838
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number7
Early online date9 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Public Management Research Association. All rights reserved.


  • decision making
  • risk assessment
  • risk communication
  • risk management
  • professional judgement
  • assessment
  • social work
  • psycho-social rationality
  • decision-making
  • risk
  • assessing risk


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