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Theoretical and applied issues in the provision of information about absolute and relative risk

By Peter Harris, Paul Sparks and Monique Raats


Klein (1997) found that participants were more influenced by information about their comparative risk standing than information about their absolute risk standing. If reliable, these findings have important implications for understanding and improving risk communication. In this paper we report the findings of several unsuccessful attempts by us to replicate Klein's findings in the UK, using one of his experimental paradigms, and discuss the findings of other recent attempts to replicate his work. Findings are inconsistent from study to study but, overall, provide some evidence that people respond to comparative and not just to absolute risk information. Issues that need to be addressed systematically in future research include: the ambiguity of absolute information, proportional differences in risk magnitude, cross-cultural and individual differences in preferences for social comparison information, and the systematic exploration of responses to absolute and comparative risk information in real choice situations

Year: 2002
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