The purpose of this research is to explore earthquake risk perceptions in California. Specifically, we examine the risk beliefs, feelings, and experiences of lay, professional, and expert individuals to explore how risk is perceived and how risk perceptions are formed relative to earthquakes. Our results indicate that individuals tend to perceptually underestimate the degree that earthquake (EQ) events may affect them. This occurs in large part because individuals' personal felt experience of EQ events are generally overestimated relative to experienced magnitudes. An important finding is that individuals engage in a process of "cognitive anchoring" of their felt EQ experience towards the reported earthquake magnitude size. The anchoring effect is moderated by the degree that individuals comprehend EQ magnitude measurement and EQ attenuation. Overall, the results of this research provide us with a deeper understanding of EQ risk perceptions, especially as they relate to individuals' understanding of EQ measurement and attenuation concepts. ?? 2005, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute.