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What Risks Do People Perceive in Everyday Life? A Perspective Gained from the Experience Sampling Method (ESM)

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The experience sampling method (ESM) was used to collect data from 74 part-time students who described and assessed the risks involved in their current activities when interrupted at random moments by text messages. The major categories of perceived risk were short term in nature and involved “loss of time or materials” related to work and “physical damage” (e.g., from transportation). Using techniques of multilevel analysis, we demonstrate effects of gender, emotional state, and types of risk on assessments of risk. Specifically, females do not differ from males in assessing the potential severity of risks but they see these as more likely to occur. Also, participants assessed risks to be lower when in more positive self-reported emotional states. We further demonstrate the potential of ESM by showing that risk assessments associated with current actions exceed those made retrospectively. We conclude by noting advantages and disadvantages of ESM for collecting data about risk perceptions.
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Keywords: Experience sampling method; gender differences; multilevel analysis; risk assessment; risk perception; simultaneous vs. retrospective judgment

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-12-01

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