Melissa L. Finucane

Adjunct Senior Fellow, Research Program
FinucanM [at]
412.683.2300 ext.4279
PhD, Psychology, University of Western Australia
Area of Expertise: 

Cognitive, emotional, and socio-psychological factors affecting human judgment and decision making; Cultural values and the perception of environmental and health risks; Climate change risk perception and communication

Dr. Finucane is a noted researcher in the field of human judgment, decision making, and risk perception. Her work attempts to clarify the mechanisms underlying human judgment and decision processes. Blending an applied focus on real-world problems with an interest in basic psychological experimentation, Dr. Finucane concentrates on adapting existing paradigms and developing new methods to make the study of subtle decision processes more tractable. Dr. Finucane has extensive experience in the operationalization of various dimensions of decision processes and the development and implementation of measures of subjective representations of risk. Her research has involved participants across the adult lifespan with diverse cultural backgrounds. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, Dr. Finucane has developed several questionnaire instruments and a computer-based tool for assessing perceptions of risk and how they relate to specific decision abilities and individual differences in mental models of risk and socio-cultural values regarding the uptake of new technologies. Funding for this work has come from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other agencies and organizations.

Dr. Finucane's current research interests focus on understanding judgment and decision making by citizens and policy makers about environmental and health risks such as climate change and avian influenza in the Asia-Pacific region.

Dr. Finucane received an M.Psych. and a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Western Australia in 1997. During 1997-2001, she worked as a Research Scientist with Drs. Paul Slovic, Terre Satterfield, Ellen Peters, Robin Gregory, and others at Decision Research, Eugene, Oregon. In 2001, Dr. Finucane moved to Honolulu, Hawai'i, to work as a Research Investigator at the Center for Health Research Hawai'i. In 2007, Dr. Finucane joined the Research Program at the East-West Center, working primarily with the Environmental Change, Vulnerability, and Governance group. She is a member of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making. Dr. Finucane has published in numerous journals, including: Journal of Behavioral Decision Making; Risk Analysis; Journal of Risk Research; Social Science and Medicine; Health, Risk and Society; The Contemporary Pacific; Psychology and Aging; Journal of Environmental Management; and others.

Selected Publications

Finucane, M.L. (2009). Why science alone won't solve the climate crisis: Managing climate risks in the Pacific. AsiaPacific Issues, 89, 1-8.

Finucane, M.L. (2008). Emotion, affect, and risk communication with older adults: Challenges and opportunities. Journal of Risk Research, 11, 983-997.

Finucane, M.L. & McMullen, C.K. (2008). Making Diabetes Self-Management Education Culturally Relevant for Filipino Americans in Hawaii. The Diabetes Educator, 34, 841-853.

Finucane, M.L. & Holup, J.L. (2006). Risk as value: Combining affect and analysis in risk judgments. Journal of Risk Research, 9(2), 141-164.

Finucane, M.L. & Holup, J.L. (2005). Psychosocial and cultural factors affecting the perceived risk of genetically modified food: An overview of the literature. Social Science and Medicine, 60, 1603-1612.

Finucane, M.L., Mertz, C.K., Slovic, P., & Schmidt, E.S. (2005). Task complexity and older adults' decision-making competence. Journal of Psychology and Aging, 20(1), 71-84.

Finucane, M.L. & Satterfield, T. (2005). Risk as narrative values: A theoretical framework for facilitating the biotechnology debate. International Journal of Biotechnology, 7(1-3), 128-146.

Roberts, M., Haami, B., Benton, R., Satterfield, T., Finucane, M.L., Henare, M., Henare, M. (2004). Whakapapa as a Māori mental construct: Some implications for debate over genetic modification of organisms. The Contemporary Pacific, 16(1), 1-28.

Slovic, P., Finucane, M.L., Peters, E., & MacGregor, D. (2004). Risk as analysis and risk as feelings: Some thoughts about affect, reason, risk, and rationality. Risk Analysis, 24(2), 1-12.

Finucane, M.L., Peters, E., & Slovic, P. (2003). Judgment and decision making: The dance of affect and reason. In Schneider, S. L. & Shanteau, J. (Eds.), Emerging perspectives on judgment and decision research (pp. 327-364). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Slovic, P., Finucane, M.L., Peters, E., & MacGregor, D.G. (2002). The affect heuristic.In T. Gilovich, D. Griffin, & D. Kahneman (Eds.), Intuitive judgment: Heuristics and biases. pp. 397-420. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Finucane, M.L., Alhakami, A., Slovic, P., & Johnson, S.M. (2000). The affect heuristic in judgments of risks and benefits. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 13, 1-17.

Finucane, M.L., Slovic, P., Mertz, C.K., Flynn, J., & Satterfield, T.A. (2000). Gender, race, and perceived risk:The "white male" effect. Health, Risk, & Society, 2, 159-172.