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The perceived functions of linguistic risk quantifiers and their effect on risk, negativity perception and decision making


  • Juanchich, Marie
  • Sirota, Miroslav
  • Butler, Christina Lea


When someone is told: “it is possible that you will lose your investment”, “possible” can be interpreted as plainly reflecting the speaker’s degree of certainty (i.e., likelihood-communication device) or as tactfully communicating the probable occurrence of losses (i.e., hearer-face-management device). We suggest that risk quantifiers can also serve the speaker’s interest by decreasing the chance of being blamed for an incorrect wrongful prediction (i.e., speaker-face-management device). In five experiments, we investigate how individuals interpret risk quantifiers and the effect of their interpretations on risk perception. Results show that speaker-face-management is the most frequent interpretation in both negative and positive outcome predictions, for different probability terms, and in different cultures. Results consistently show that device interpretation determines risk judgment, negativity perceptions and decision making. Results are discussed within the framework of politeness theory and implications for risk communication are reviewed.

Suggested Citation

  • Juanchich, Marie & Sirota, Miroslav & Butler, Christina Lea, 2012. "The perceived functions of linguistic risk quantifiers and their effect on risk, negativity perception and decision making," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 118(1), pages 72-81.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:118:y:2012:i:1:p:72-81
    DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2012.01.002

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Erev, Ido & Cohen, Brent L., 1990. "Verbal versus numerical probabilities: Efficiency, biases, and the preference paradox," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 1-18, February.
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