Mapping risk and benefit perceptions of energy sources: Comparing public and expert mental models in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore

Shirley S. Ho, Peihan Yu, Edson C. Tandoc, Agnes S.F. Chuah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Traditionally reliant on fossil fuels, Southeast Asian countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore – plan to introduce cleaner energy (e.g., renewable energy) into their energy mix. To gauge public support, an understanding of their risk and benefit perceptions of energy technologies is necessary. In the absence of technical knowledge, lay people may form these perceptions based on existing mental models – these are individuals' internal representations of the external world that can affect how they perceive various issues. Using the mental models approach, the current study examines and compares the public's and energy experts' mental models in an attempt to understand how risks and benefits of energy technologies are perceived, as well as gaps in the public's understanding and information needs. We conducted online focus group discussions in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore with 78 members of the public and 26 energy experts. The public and energy experts were found to have broadly similar considerations about energy security, economic and environmental impacts, and safety of energy technologies, but they differed in how they thought about them. While energy experts had relied on their topical expertise and existing evidence to form risk and benefit perceptions, the public had relied on other contextual factors to do so, such as their place-identities, religious beliefs, and personal values. Misleading analogies were also found to have played a role. The findings' implications on public policies and communication strategies are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102500
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is funded by the Singapore National Research Foundation under the Nuclear Safety Research and Education Programme (NSREP). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Singapore National Research Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors


  • Benefit perception
  • Energy
  • Mental model
  • Risk perception
  • Southeast Asia


Dive into the research topics of 'Mapping risk and benefit perceptions of energy sources: Comparing public and expert mental models in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this