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Risk Target: An Interactive Context Factor in Risk Perception

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The effect of specification of the target on risk evaluation was examined. A whole set of hazards, covering most of the domains, were considered: common individual hazards, outdoor activities, medical care, public transportation, energy production, pollutants, sex, deviance, and addictions. Three human targets were introduced: personal health risk (including personal risk of death), health risk for people in the country, and health risk for people in the world. The basic design was a between-subjects design. The first hypothesis was that risk judgments made in the “world” condition should be higher than risk judgments made in the “country” condition, and risk judgments made in this condition should be higher than risk judgments made in the “personal” condition. This is what was observed. The second hypothesis was that the target effect should differ as a function of the kind of hazards considered. This also is what was observed. In two domains— pollutants, and deviance, sex, and addictions—the target effect was important. It corresponded to about one-tenth of the response scale. In the four remaining domains, the target effect was unimportant or absent.
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Keywords: Addictions; pollutants; risk perception; sex; target

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-08-01

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