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Rationality and Context: Antidotes for Anthrax Anecdotes
Unformatted Document Text:  14 item apprehension. We also examined the correlations between these four variables and the rationality and experientiality scales. Those scoring higher on rationality tended to report that they followed the news more closely than did their less rationally oriented counterparts (r = .23, p < .05). However, none of the three media exposure measures correlated significantly with either scale, in spite of the fact that there was a significant correlation between the reported amount of newspaper exposure and how closely individuals followed the news (r = .35, p < .01). Discussion The results provide strong support for the crossover interaction hypothesis evaluated in Experiment 1. Those individuals who prefer rational thinking and profess a high level of rational thinking ability manifested significant reductions in their levels of felt apprehension when they were provided with a broader statistical context for evaluating the focal threat in the form of the traffic deaths story. By contrast, individuals with lesser proclivities to engage in rational thought and lower rational ability levels showed significant increases in reported apprehension when provided with the same contextualizing information. The results also indicated that experientiality was not related to the amount of apprehension felt in response to the anthrax story. Even though anthrax victimization risk estimates were extremely low, anthrax was judged to be a serious national problem. At first blush, the disjunction between the victimization risk and seriousness judgments may seem inconsistent. However, it seems reasonable to view a potential threat as serious in a larger, abstract sense, but to perceive the same threat to be very unlikely to affect one personally. Recall that study participants were located on the West Coast, whereas virtually all of the anthrax cases were confined

Authors: Berger, Charles., Johnson, Joel. and Lee, Eun-Ju.
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item apprehension. We also examined the correlations between these four variables and
the rationality and experientiality scales. Those scoring higher on rationality tended to
report that they followed the news more closely than did their less rationally oriented
counterparts (r = .23, p < .05). However, none of the three media exposure measures
correlated significantly with either scale, in spite of the fact that there was a significant
correlation between the reported amount of newspaper exposure and how closely
individuals followed the news (r = .35, p < .01).
Discussion
The results provide strong support for the crossover interaction hypothesis
evaluated in Experiment 1. Those individuals who prefer rational thinking and profess a
high level of rational thinking ability manifested significant reductions in their levels of
felt apprehension when they were provided with a broader statistical context for
evaluating the focal threat in the form of the traffic deaths story. By contrast, individuals
with lesser proclivities to engage in rational thought and lower rational ability levels
showed significant increases in reported apprehension when provided with the same
contextualizing information. The results also indicated that experientiality was not related
to the amount of apprehension felt in response to the anthrax story.
Even though anthrax victimization risk estimates were extremely low, anthrax
was judged to be a serious national problem. At first blush, the disjunction between the
victimization risk and seriousness judgments may seem inconsistent. However, it seems
reasonable to view a potential threat as serious in a larger, abstract sense, but to perceive
the same threat to be very unlikely to affect one personally. Recall that study participants
were located on the West Coast, whereas virtually all of the anthrax cases were confined


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