The influence of new information that contradicts common knowledge about earthquake preparedness in Israel: A mixed methods experiment study

Anat Gesser-Edelsburg, Mina Zemach, Ricky Cohen, Talya Miron-Shatz, Maya Negev, Gustavo S. Mesch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background A major earthquake in Israel is inevitable. Individual risk perceptions and preparedness can mitigate harm and save lives. The gap between the public's concerns and those of experts is reflected in their differential perceptions regarding the components that influence the occurrence of an earthquake in Israel. Whereas the public believes that geographic location is the critical variable, the experts note additional variables that need to be considered. Common knowledge regarding the risks of earthquake occurrence in Israel is based on a distinction between high and low-risk areas, such that the closer a residential area is to the Great Rift Valley, the higher the risk that an earthquake will occur. Objectives To examine the variables affecting public preparedness in Israel (effective communication agent (communicator), high and low earthquake risk areas) and the degree to which experts' knowledge contradicts respondents' common knowledge. Methods The study used a mixed-methods approach combining qualitative and quantitative research. The first stage included in-depth interviews with earthquake experts (n = 19). The second stage consisted of an experiment conducted among a representative sample of the public (n = 834). Results Most people believe that geographical location constitutes the main risk factor for earthquakes in Israel. Yet experts claim that additional variables affect earthquake intensity and damage: Building strength, earthquake magnitude, distance from earthquake epicenter, soil type, and interaction between these four. The study found that knowledge of expert information affects public willingness to prepare. The direction of this influence depends on participants' risk perceptions regarding residential area and on degree of consistency with common knowledge. In low-risk areas, added knowledge increased willingness to prepare whereas in high-risk areas this knowledge decreased willingness. Conclusion To turn expert information into common knowledge and to increase earthquake preparedness, the authorities must educate the public to generate a new public preparedness norm.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0250127
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Gesser-Edelsburg et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • Disaster Planning/methods
  • Earthquakes/statistics & numerical data
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Information Dissemination/methods
  • Israel
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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