The Role of Behavioral Experience in Judging Risks

Here’s another research paper from my Risk Perception and Communication class. I think it confirms a little of the anecdotal and statistical evidence we’ve been hearing. The main finding of this by Halpern-Felsher et al. is that people who have experience with some sort of risk area (for example, having been in a lightning storm) are less likely to believe that they will experience a negative outcome as a result of that experience (less likely to believe that they will die in a lightning storm that someone who has never been in a lightning storm). They tested this on a number of experiences and outcomes, including natural disasters, alcohol-related and sexual experiences.

This article is really interesting because one of the findings that really stuck out in my mind from Private Guns, Public Health was that people who went through gun safety training (which included safe storage practices) were more likely to store their gun in an unsafe way (unlocked, loaded, in a spot where a child could easily get to it). The results of this study go along with this result – perhaps people who have spent more time getting to know the ins and outs of a gun are less scared of it, and thus perhaps they don’t think it’s as dangerous anymore.