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.

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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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Re: Can YOU stop impaired driving?

The “benefits of [a sobriety check] campaign may not depend on drivers’ being personally exposed to a checkpoint, but rather on their knowing that others have.” Thus, local media can aid sobriety check campaigns, by announcing how many have been checked and how many didn’t pass. Media coverage, in turn, will increase the perceived risks of being caught in by the police.

This is a blog response to the post “Can YOU stop impaired driving?” in which Sergeant Tim Burrows calls for ideas on how to tackle this problem. Here, I present my two cents:

First, don’t use threats of physical harm or death in your communications, because this kind of message is not effective with the target groups for which it is intended: male drivers and sensation seekers (this term refers to a personality trait that is associated with risk-taking and impaired driving)1, 2. Moreover, some studies suggest that these messages can be counterproductive, because they induce denial (“this won’t happen to me”) and self-enhancement attitudes (“I am a better driver than the people in the ad”).

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Audience analytics for road safety: personality traits

In order to be effective at educating the public, road safety campaigns must answer basic questions about drivers: who are they? Are there any identifiable groups? What gets their attention? How to communicate effectively with each of them? In this post, I will these questions in terms of personality traits. As I will describe, psychological research on this area has proven to be very useful for road safety and injury prevention in general.

In order to be effective at educating the public, road safety campaigns must answer basic questions about drivers: who are they? Are there any identifiable groups? What gets their attention? How to communicate effectively with them? In this post, I will answer these questions in terms of personality traits, because psychological research on this area has proven to be very useful for road safety and injury prevention in general.

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Gulf of Mexico disaster may distort perception about risks of oil tanker traffic

The port cities committee of Metro Vancouver will evaluate the risks of the increasing oil tanker traffic in the region1. This is great news! I praise the city council’s foresight and interest in the issue. At the same time, I fear that the assessment might be distorted by the current environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

Lions Gate Bridge
Photo by Tak Ishikawa

The port cities committee of Metro Vancouver will evaluate the risks of the increasing oil tanker traffic in the region1. This is great news! And I praise the city council’s foresight and interest in the issue. At the same time, I fear that the assessment might be distorted by the current environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Continue reading “Gulf of Mexico disaster may distort perception about risks of oil tanker traffic”

Playboy model is defeating scientists in PR battle over vaccines

Although the scientific paper that spawned fear of vaccines was officially retracted in February 2010 1, many parents are still reluctant to immunize their children. Yes, the anti-vaccination movement is still alive and kicking 2, and the paper is far from being retracted in the arena of public opinion 3. Why is this happening?

Although the scientific paper that spawned fear of vaccines was officially retracted in February 20101, many parents are still reluctant to immunize their children. Yes, the anti-vaccination movement is still alive and kicking 2, and the paper is far from being retracted in the arena of public opinion 3. Why is this happening?

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The psychology of the anti-vaccination movement

In the last decade, parents in the whole world have come to believe that the risks associated to the use of vaccines are greater than the dangers of the diseases themselves. In the first minute of this clip, Professor Richard Dawkins and Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick explain why many parents were so easily dissuaded from vaccinating their kids.

In the last decade, parents in the whole world have come to believe that the risks associated to the use of vaccines are greater than the dangers of the diseases themselves. In the first minute of this clip, Professor Richard Dawkins and Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick explain why many parents were so easily dissuaded from vaccinating their kids. Their account is consistent with psychological research on decision making:

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Ideas on risk communication

A review of the literature on road safety, injury prevention and medical decision-making provides two important principles in risk communication: (1) fear is counterproductive, and (2) format and graphic design affect people’s choices.

A review of the literature on road safety, injury prevention and medical decision-making provides two important ideas for risk communication: (1) fear is counterproductive, and (2) format and graphic design affect people’s choices.

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