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Are Some Deaths Worse Than Others? The Effect of 'Labelling' on People's Perceptions

Author

Listed:
  • Anne Spencer

    (Queen Mary, University of London)

  • Judith Covey

    (University of Durham)

  • Angela Robinson

    (University of East Anglia)

  • Graham Loomes

    (University of East Anglia)

Abstract

This paper sets out to explore the extent to which perceptions regarding the 'badness' of different types of deaths differ according to how those deaths are 'labelled' in the elicitation procedure. In particular, we are interested in whether responses to 'contextual' questions - where the specific context in which the deaths occur is known - differ from 'generic' questions - where the context is unknown. Further, we set out to test whether sensitivity to the numbers of deaths differs across the 'generic' and 'contextual' versions of the questions. We uncover evidence to suggest that both the perceived 'badness' of different types of deaths and sensitivity to the numbers of deaths may differ according to whether 'generic' or 'contextual' descriptions are used. Qualitative data suggested two reasons why responses to 'generic' and 'contextual' questions differed: firstly, some influential variables were omitted from the 'generic' descriptions and secondly, certain variables were interpreted somewhat differently once the context had been identified. The implications of our findings for 'generic' questions, such as those commonly used in health economics (for example, the EQ 5D), are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Anne Spencer & Judith Covey & Angela Robinson & Graham Loomes, 2007. "Are Some Deaths Worse Than Others? The Effect of 'Labelling' on People's Perceptions," Working Papers 620, Queen Mary University of London, School of Economics and Finance.
  • Handle: RePEc:qmw:qmwecw:wp620
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    File URL: http://www.econ.qmul.ac.uk/media/econ/research/workingpapers/archive/wp620.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Hammitt, James K & Graham, John D, 1999. "Willingness to Pay for Health Protection: Inadequate Sensitivity to Probability?," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 18(1), pages 33-62, April.
    2. Dubourg, W R & Jones-Lee, M W & Loomes, Graham, 1997. "Imprecise Preferences and Survey Design in Contingent Valuation," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 64(256), pages 681-702, November.
    3. Louviere,Jordan J. & Hensher,David A. & Swait,Joffre D., 2000. "Stated Choice Methods," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521788304, May.
    4. Small, Deborah A & Loewenstein, George, 2003. "Helping a Victim or Helping the Victim: Altruism and Identifiability," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 26(1), pages 5-16, January.
    5. Sunstein, Cass R, 1997. "Bad Deaths," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 259-282, May-June.
    6. Jones-Lee, Michael W & Loomes, Graham & Philips, P R, 1995. "Valuing the Prevention of Non-fatal Road Injuries: Contingent Valuation vs. Standard Gambles," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(4), pages 676-695, October.
    7. Richard D. Smith, 2008. "Contingent valuation in health care: does it matter how the 'good' is described?," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(5), pages 607-617.
    8. Slovic, Paul & Finucane, Melissa L. & Peters, Ellen & MacGregor, Donald G., 2007. "The affect heuristic," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 177(3), pages 1333-1352, March.
    9. Loewenstein, George & O'Donoghue, Ted, 2004. "Animal Spirits: Affective and Deliberative Processes in Economic Behavior," Working Papers 04-14, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
    10. Loomes, Graham, 2006. "(How) Can we value health, safety and the environment?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 713-736, December.
    11. Subramanian, Uma & Cropper, Maureen, 2000. "Public Choices between Life Saving Programs: The Tradeoff between Qualitative Factors and Lives Saved," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 117-149, July.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Preferences; Context effects; Affect heuristic;

    JEL classification:

    • H5 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies
    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General

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