Aim: A massive flood due to exceptional rainfalls devastated the town of Genoa on 9 October 2014. Media reports focused on the disaster, its causes and the political accountabilities. Reading facts after the event is commonly biased by the hindsight perspective and the aim of the paper is to investigate the amount and the potential effects of hindsight bias in terms of citizens risk perception and community resilience.
Method: We performed a qualitative analysis of the narratives in the national and local news reports during the aftermath to investigate occurrences of a blaming attitude and cognitive biases.
Results: The results showed a considerable amount of sentences that were focused on blaming the forecasters, the Civil Protection System, and the local administration. Many narratives were affected by hindsight bias and described the events as simple and linear chain reactions. This led to counterfactual biases, assuming that a simple intervention on a single factor could have prevented the tragic outcome.
Conclusion: We claim that the biased nature of the media narratives could affect the citizens’ risk perception and their attitude towards the institutions, increasing their exposure to future flood-related threats. We propose the appropriate language would generate correct cognitive frames and, therefore, safer behaviour.