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

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Listed:
  • Carissa Bonner
  • Ben R. Newell

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Carissa Bonner & Ben R. Newell, 2008. "How to make a risk seem riskier: The ratio bias versus construal level theory," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 3, pages 411-416, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:3:y:2008:i::p:-416
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mathieu Lefebvre & Ferdinand Vieider & Marie Villeval, 2011. "The ratio bias phenomenon: fact or artifact?," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 71(4), pages 615-641, October.
    2. 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.
    3. Paul C. Price & Teri V. Matthews, 2009. "From group diffusion to ratio bias: Effects of denominator and numerator salience on intuitive risk and likelihood judgments," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 4(6), pages 436-446, October.

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