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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Evaluating road safety campaigns: success comes with failure

Many campaign evaluations focus only on one side of the issue: message acceptance. That is, they only measure how the message positively changed self-reported attitudes, intentions or behaviour. However, most evaluations pay little attention to message rejection―the extent to which the message fails.

Initiatives to educate drivers and promote road safety are not scarce in British Columbia. Right now, there are at least seven communication campaigns that focus on different issues: drinking and driving, intersections, speeding, high school speakers, cell phone use, child seats, and young drivers1, 2. Considering the effort and money spent in these programs, it is important to measure how effective they are.

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

In a previous post, I pointed out that the recent disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, might cause people to overestimate the risks oil spills. I also expressed my concern with Metro Vancouver’s decision to evaluate the risks of oil tanker traffic just while the events on and off the coasts of Florida are unfolding.

In a previous post, I pointed out that the recent disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, might cause people to overestimate the risks oil spills. I also expressed my concern with Metro Vancouver’s decision to evaluate the risks of oil tanker traffic just while the events on and off the coasts of Florida are unfolding.

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

“Drinking and Driving CounterAttack”: does science support tougher laws?

Drinking and driving CounterAttack is the current road safety campaign by the Province of British Columbia, ICBC and police departments around the region. While some people disagree with its core policy (harsher penalties start at alcohol levels of .05), I contend that science supports it.

Drinking and driving CounterAttack is the current road safety campaign by the Province of British Columbia, ICBC and police departments around the region. While some people disagree with its core policy (harsher penalties start at alcohol levels of .05), I contend that science supports it. Continue reading ““Drinking and Driving CounterAttack”: does science support tougher laws?”

Vancouver cyclists: how to change unsafe behaviours

According to the Vancouver Sun1, many cyclists don’t know the laws, believe they don’t apply to them, or simply flout them intentionally. Here, I present two considerations on how to educate cyclists in Vancouver.

While the municipality plans to spend $25 million dollars in bicycle infrastructure1, other Vancouverites are concerned with the behaviour of cyclists and how to change their unsafe habits2. According to the Vancouver Sun1, many cyclists don’t know the laws, believe they don’t apply to them, or simply flout them intentionally. For instance, Statistics Canada reports that only 60% of B.C. cyclists wear helmets3. Continue reading “Vancouver cyclists: how to change unsafe behaviours”

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?

Continue reading “Playboy model is defeating scientists in PR battle over vaccines”