Risk taking is a matter of format

Risk-taking is often associated with the character of a person. However, researchers have demonstrated that this behaviour greatly depends on the way people are presented a decision problem: most people decide to take risks when they face choices with negative outcomes (injuries), and choose safer options when they face positive consequences (dancing in the prom). Consequently, road safety, health promotion and injury prevention campaigns should convey risks in positive terms, and avoid communicating negative outcomes.

Risk-taking is often associated with the character of a person: some individuals are considered risk-takers and are said to lead risk-taking lives1. However, researchers have demonstrated that this behaviour greatly depends on the way people are presented a decision problem2, 3, 4. Indeed, most people decide to take risks when they face choices with negative outcomes3, 4 such as diseases or injuries. Conversely, most individuals choose safer options when they face positive consequences3, 4 like “dancing in the prom” or “playing with my children”.

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Statistics are lies!? Damn not!

Mr. Goldstein’s belief that statistics are lies is largely fuelled by misconceptions about statistics and its role in decision making. Sadly, this kind of uninformed opinions had a lot to do with the absurd proposal to make Canada’s census voluntary.

I know this post is two weeks late and I am sorry about that. Still, better late than never.

This is a reply to Lorrie Goldstein’s column, “Stats, smoke and mirrors”, in which he rants about crime rates and Statistics Canada―the Canadian statistics agency. In my opinion, his diatribe is foolish, unfair and uninformed.

In an effort to be straightforward, this is what I will discuss:

  1. If decision makers don’t know how to use statistics, then they are the problem; don’t blame statistics for that.
  2. Mr. Goldstein’s “analysis” of crime rates is useless and superficial.

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Impaired driving: Media is helping!

When reporters explain the causes of a collision and emphasize on drivers’ choices, they are also educating the public on how to prevent crashes, injuries, or fatalities. In fact, experimental studies have demonstrated that this type of journalism produces positive changes in the public’s perception of the problem.

Last week, I was glad to see that an impaired driving conviction was generously covered by the media and even made the front page of local newspapers1. In particular, Matt Kieltyka’s piece exhibited traits of what experts consider good road accident journalism: it contained a detailed description of the event, including its human context, antecedents, the aftermath, and it explained how drinking and driving led to the death of a little girl1.

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