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Overreaction to Fearsome Risks

  • Zeckhauser, Richard

    (Harvard University)

Fearsome risks are those that stimulate strong emotional responses. Such risks, which usually involve high consequences, tend to have low probabilities, since life today is no longer nasty, brutish and short. In the face of a low-probability fearsome risk, people often exaggerate the benefits of preventive, risk-reducing, or ameliorative measures. In both personal life and politics, the result is damaging overreactions to risks. We offer evidence for the phenomenon of probability neglect, failing to distinguish between high and low-probability risks. Action bias is a likely result.

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Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp08-079.

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Date of creation: Dec 2008
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp08-079
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  1. James T. Hamilton & W. Kip Viscusi, 1999. "Calculating Risks?: The Spatial and Political Dimensions of Hazardous Waste Policy," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262082780, June.
  2. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-91, March.
  3. Patt, Anthony & Zeckhauser, Richard, 2000. " Action Bias and Environmental Decisions," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 45-72, July.
  4. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521791991 is not listed on IDEAS
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