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How to make a risk seem riskier: The ratio bias versus construal level theory

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  • Carissa Bonner
  • Ben R. Newell
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    Abstract

    Which statement conveys greater risk: ``100 people die from cancer every day'' or ``36,500 people die from cancer every year''? In statistics where both frequencies and temporal information are used to convey risk, two theories predict opposite answers to this question. Construal level theory predicts that ``100 people die from cancer every day'' will be judged as more risky, while the ratio bias predicts that the equivalent ``36,500 people die from cancer every year'' will result in higher risk judgments. An experiment investigated which format produces higher risk ratings, and whether ratings are influenced by increasing the salience of the numerical or temporal part of the statistic. Forty-eight participants were randomly assigned to a numerical, temporal or control salience condition, and rated risk framed as number of deaths per day or per year. The year format was found to result in higher perceived risk, indicating that the ratio bias effect is dominant, but there was no effect of salience.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Society for Judgment and Decision Making in its journal Judgment and Decision Making.

    Volume (Year): 3 (2008)
    Issue (Month): (June)
    Pages: 411-416

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    Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:3:y:2008:i::p:-416

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    Related research

    Keywords: risk perception; ratio bias; construal level theory; health statistics; framing.;

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    1. Jose-Luis Pinto-Prades & Jorge-Eduardo Martinez-Perez & Jose-Maria Abellan-Perpinan, 2006. "The influence of the ratio bias phenomenon on the elicitation of health states utilities," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 1, pages 118-133, November.
    2. Donald Dale & Jeffrey Rudski & Adam Schwartz & Eric Smith, 2007. "Innumeracy and incentives: A ratio bias experiment," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 2, pages 243-250, August.
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    Cited by:
    1. Shahar Ayal & Guy Hochman & Dan Zakay, 2011. "Two sides of the same coin: Information processing style and reverse biases," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 6(4), pages 295-306, June.
    2. Mathieu Lefebvre & Ferdinand Vieider & Marie-Claire Villeval, 2009. "The Ratio Bias Phenomenon : Fact or Artifact ?," Working Papers, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE), Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Université Lyon 2, Ecole Normale Supérieure 0925, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE), Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Université Lyon 2, Ecole Normale Supérieure.

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