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Biosecurity, Terrorism, and Food Consumption Behavior: Using Experimental Psychology to Analyze Choices Involving Fear


  • Just, David R.
  • Wansink, Brian
  • Turvey, Calum G.


How would a possible food safety scare influence food consumption? Using techniques from experimental psychology, a study of 103 lunchtime participants suggests that a food scare--avian influenza--would decrease consumption of the affected food by 17% if the subjects believed it was naturally occurring, and by 26% if they believed it was the result of terrorism. While individual consumption decreased, very few eliminated all consumption of the affected food. We argue that experimental psychology is essential when attempting to study behavior in food safety where hypothetical scenarios and surveys would not capture the emotional nature of the response.

Suggested Citation

  • Just, David R. & Wansink, Brian & Turvey, Calum G., 2009. "Biosecurity, Terrorism, and Food Consumption Behavior: Using Experimental Psychology to Analyze Choices Involving Fear," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 34(1), April.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:jlaare:50085

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dermot J. Hayes & Jason F. Shogren & Seung Youll Shin & James B. Kliebenstein, 1995. "Valuing Food Safety in Experimental Auction Markets," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 77(1), pages 40-53.
    2. Arrow, Kenneth J, 1982. "Risk Perception in Psychology and Economics," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 20(1), pages 1-9, January.
    3. Joost M. E. Pennings, 2004. "Channel Contract Behavior: The Role of Risk Attitudes, Risk Perceptions, And Channel Members' Market Structures," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 77(4), pages 697-724, October.
    4. Frenzen, Paul D. & Buzby, Jean C. & Rasco, Barbara, 2001. "Product Liability And Microbial Foodborne Illness," Agricultural Economics Reports 34059, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    5. Hennessy, David A., 2012. "Economic Aspects of Agricultural and Food Biosecurity," Staff General Research Papers Archive 35015, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    6. John M. Antle, 2000. "No Such Thing as a Free Safe Lunch: The Cost of Food Safety Regulation in the Meat Industry," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 82(2), pages 310-322.
    7. Zijun Wang & Victoria Salin & Neal Hooker & David Leatham, 2002. "Stock market reaction to food recalls: a GARCH application," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(15), pages 979-987.
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    Cited by:

    1. Boisvert, Richard N. & Kay, David & Turvey, Calum G., 2012. "Macroeconomic costs to large scale disruptions of food production: The case of foot- and-mouth disease in the United States," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 1921-1930.
    2. Römer, Ulf & Weber, Ron & Mußhoff, Oliver & Turvey, Calcum G., 2017. "Truth and consequences: Bogus pipeline experiment in informal small business lending," DARE Discussion Papers 1702, Georg-August University of Göttingen, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development (DARE).


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