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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Dr Judith Covey

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My research is concerned with understanding how people perceive risks and value benefits in decisions which affect their health or safety. Much of the work I have been involved with in recent years has been of an applied nature and aimed particularly at examining ways of involving people in decision making. Recent projects have been focused on finding out about people's preferences for the allocation of public resources on safety expenditure. Central to this research has been the development and implementation of methods which aim to measure the values that individuals place on changes in risks to their health or quality of life.

Of particular interest are questions about why, as well as how, the values elicited from people can be affected by the particular valuation technique used. As well as causing difficulties for practitioners in eliciting coherent sets of values for policy/clinical purposes, these data are of particular interest because they challenge standard theoretical assumptions that people's preferences are stable and highly articulated. Rather they support the view that people have only very basic sets of values to draw upon and consequently construct their answers to value elicitation questions using a variety of context-specific strategies and rules-of-thumb.

Other lines of enquiry include mapping how people's perceptions of the risks of hazards (e.g., road accidents, nuclear radiation) relate to their views about regulation and priorities for risk reduction. This stems from psychological research showing that lay-people use broad definitions of 'risk' incorporating a variety of underlying characteristics of the hazards. Such characteristics include whether or not people have a choice about whether they face the risk, the extent to which the hazard's impact is immediate or delayed, or whether many or few people would typically be killed at once.

Research Groups

Department of Psychology

Research Interests

  • Evaluating methods for eliciting people's preferences and involving them in the decision making process
  • How people perceive risks and value benefits in decisions affecting their health or safety


Chapter in book

  • Branley, D, Covey, J & Hardey, M (2014). Online surveys: Investigating social media use and online risk. In SAGE Research Methods Cases. Sage Publications Ltd.
  • Chilton, S., Covey, J. & Hopkins, L. et al. (2004). Valuing the 'value' of life: A case of constructed preferences? In Mixing Methods in Psychology. The Integration of Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Theory and Practice. Eds.Z. Todd, B. Nerlich, S. McKeown & D. Clark Psychology Press.

Journal Article

  • Froggatt, S., Reissland, N. & Covey, J. (2021). Risk Perception of Cigarette and E-cigarette use during Pregnancy: A Qualitative Postpartum Perspective. Midwifery
  • Covey, J., Horwell, C.J., Ogawa, R., Baba, T., Nishimura, S., Hagino, M. & Merli, C. (2020). Community perceptions of protective practices to prevent ash exposures around Sakurajima volcano, Japan. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 101525.
  • Froggatt, S, Covey, J & Reissland, N (2020). Infant neurobehavioural consequences of prenatal cigarette exposure: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Acta Paediatrica 109(6): 1112-1124.
  • Froggatt, S., Reissland, N. & Covey, J. (2020). The effects of prenatal cigarette and e-cigarette exposure on infant neurobehaviour: A comparison to a control group. EClinical Medicine
  • Short, Valentina, Covey, Judith, Webster, Lisa, Wadman, Ruth, Reilly, Joe, Hay-Gibson, Naomi & Stain, Helen (2019). Considering the team in team formulation: A systematic review. Mental Health Review Journal 24(1): 11-29.
  • Spencer, A, Tomeny, E, Robinson, A, Covey, J & Pinto Prades, J L (2019). Do Time Trade-off values fully capture attitudes that are relevant to health related choices? European Journal of Health Economics
  • Covey, J., Horwell, C.J., Rachmawati, L., Ogawa, R., Martin-del Pozzo, A.L., Armienta, M.A., Nugroho, F. & Dominelli, L (2019). Factors motivating the use of respiratory protection against volcanic ashfall a comparative analysis of communities in Japan, Indonesia and Mexico. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 35: 101066.
  • Arroyos Calvera, D, Covey, J, Loomes, G & McDonald, R (2019). The Efficiency-Equity Trade-off, Self-Interest, and Moral Principles in Health and Safety Valuation. Social Science and Medicine 238: 112477.
  • Galea, K.S., Covey, J., Mutia Timur, S., Horwell, C.J., Nugroho, F. & Mueller, W. (2018). Health Interventions in Volcanic Eruptions—Community Wearability Assessment of Respiratory Protection against Volcanic Ash from Mt Sinabung, Indonesia. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 15(11): 2359.
  • Branley, D.B & Covey, J. (2018). Risky Behavior Via Social Media: The Role of Reasoned and Social Reactive Pathways. Computers in Human Behavior 78: 183-191.
  • Robinson, A., Spencer, A., Pinto-Prades, J-L. & Covey, J. (2017). Exploring differences between TTO and DCE in the valuation of health states. Medical Decision Making 37(3): 273-284.
  • Branley, Dawn Beverley & Covey, Judith (2017). Is exposure to online content depicting risky behavior related to viewers’ own risky behavior offline? Computers in Human Behavior
  • Branley, Dawn & Covey, Judith (2017). Pro-Ana Versus Pro-Recovery: A Content Analytic Comparison of Social Media Users’ Communication About Eating Disorders on Twitter and Tumblr. Frontiers in Psychology: Eating Behavior 8: 1356.
  • Covey, J., Rosenthal-Stott, H.E.S. & Howell, S.J. (2016). A synthesis of meta-analytic evidence of behavioral interventions to reduce HIV/STIs. Journal of Behavioral Medicine 39(3): 371-385.
  • Chilton, S., Covey, J., Jones-Lee, M., Loomes, G., Pidgeon, N. & Spencer, A. (2015). Response to 'Testing the validity of the "value of prevented fatality" (VPF) used to assess UK safety measures'. Process Safety and Environmental Protection 93: 293-298.
  • Zhang, Q. & Covey, J. (2014). Past and future implications of near-misses and their emotional consequences. Experimental Psychology 61(2): 118-126.
  • Covey, J. & Zhang, Q. (2014). The effect of dynamic proximity cues on counterfactual plausibility. Judgment and Decision Making 9(6): 586-592.
  • Covey, J (2014). The role of dispositional factors in moderating message framing effects. Health Psychology 33(1): 52-65
  • Tyson, M, Covey, J & Rosenthal, H.E.S. (2014). Theory of Planned Behavior interventions for reducing heterosexual risk behaviors: A meta-analysis. Health Psychology 33(12): 1454-1467.
  • Wells, V.K., Greenwell, F., Covey, J., Rosenthal, H. E. S., Adcock, M. & Gregory-Smith, D. (2013). An exploratory investigation of barriers and enablers affecting investment in renewable companies and technologies in the UK. Interface Focus 3(1): 20120039.
  • Covey, J., Noble, A.J. & Schenk, T. (2013). Editorial: Fear of recurrence. Journal of Neurosurgery 119(4): 943-947.
  • Covey, J, Noble, A J & Schenk, T (2013). Family and friends' fears of recurrence: impact on the patient's recovery after subarachnoid hemorrhage. Journal of Neurosurgery 119(4): 948-954.
  • Noble, A.J., Baisch, S., Covey, J., Mukerji, N., Nath, F. & Schenk, T. (2011). Subarachnoid hemorrhage patients' fears of recurrence are related to the presence of posttraumatic stress disorder. Neurosurgery 69(2): 323-333.
  • Covey, J. (2011). The effects of absolute risks, relative risks, frequencies, and probabilities on decision quality. Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives 16(7): 788-801.
  • Robinson, A., Covey, J., Spencer, A. & Loomes, G. (2010). Are some deaths worse than others? The effect of ‘labelling’ on people’s perceptions. Journal of Economic Psychology 31(3): 444-455.
  • Covey, J, Robinson, A, Jones-Lee, M & Loomes, G (2010). Responsibility, scale and the valuation of rail safety. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 40(1): 85-108.
  • Covey, J (2007). A meta-analysis of the effects of presenting treatment benefits in different formats. Medical Decision Making 27(5): 638-654.
  • Whynes, D., Frew, E.J., Philips, Z.N., Covey, J. & Smith, R.D. (2007). On the numerical forms of contingent valuation responses. Journal of Economic Psychology 28: 462-476.
  • Covey, J., Loomes, G. & Bateman, I. (2007). Valuing risk reductions: Testing for range biases in payment card and random card sorting methods. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 50(4): 467-482.
  • Covey, J. & Smith, R.D. (2006). How common is the prominence effect? Additional evidence to Whynes et al. Health Economics 15(2): 205-210.
  • Spencer, A., Covey, J., Chilton, S. & Taylor, M. (2005). Testing the internal consistency of the lottery equivalents method using health outcomes: A comment to Oliver. Health Economics 14(2): 161-167.
  • Covey, J. & Davies, A.D.M. (2004). Are people unrealistically optimistic? It depends how you ask them. British Journal of Health Psychology 9: 1-11.
  • Chilton, S., Covey, J., Hopkins, L. Jones-Lee, M., Loomes, G., Pidgeon, N. & Spencer, A. (2002). Public perceptions of risk and preference-based values of safety. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 25(3): 211-232.
  • Covey, J. (2001). People's preferences for safety control: Why does baseline risk matter? Risk Analysis 21(2): 331-340.
  • Edwards, A., Elwyn, G., Covey, J., Matthews, E. & Pill, R. (2001). Presenting risk information - a review of the effects of 'framing' and other manipulations on patient outcomes. Journal of Health Communication 6(1): 61-82.
  • Edwards, A., Elwyn, G., Covey, J. & et al. (2000). The effectiveness of one-to-one risk communication in health care: A systematic review. Medical Decision Making 20: 290-297.
  • Matthews, E.J., Edwards, AG K, Barker, J, Bloor, M, Covey, J., Hood, K., Pill, R., Russell, I. & Stott N (1999). Efficient literature searching in diffuse topics: Lessons from a systematic review of research on communicating risk to patients in primary care. Health Libraries Review 16: 112-120.
  • Covey J. & Lovie, A.D. (1998). Information selection and utilisation in hypothesis-testing: A comparison of process-tracing and structural analysis techniques. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 75(1): 56-74.
  • Beattie, J, Covey, J., Dolan, P. & et al. (1998). On the contingent valuation of safety and the safety of contingent valuation: Part 1 - 'Caveat Investigator'. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 17(1): 5-26.
  • Carthy, T., Chilton, S., Covey, J. & et al. (1998). On the contingent valuation of safety and the safety of contingent valuation: Part 2 - The CV/SG “chained” approach. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 17(3): 187-213.
  • Covey, J., Jones-Lee, M., Loomes, G. & Robinson, A. (1998). Valuing the prevention of food-borne illness: Some limitations of consumers’ ‘willingness to pay’. Risk Decision and Policy 3: 245-259.
  • Covey J., Kebbell, M.R. & Wagstaff, G.F. (1996). The influence of item difficulty on the relationship between eyewitness confidence and accuracy. British Journal of Psychology 87: 653-662.