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Rationality and Context: Antidotes for Anthrax Anecdotes
Unformatted Document Text:  16 apprehension might decline, perhaps more than the apprehension of low rationals, when the threat is no longer prominently featured by the media. If their apprehension concerning a threat declines, we might expect that their need and motivation to minimize their apprehension about that threat would also decline. Their mode of information processing and responses might come to resemble those of low rationals. This possibility was examined in Experiment 2. Experiment 2 The decline in the perceived seriousness of the anthrax threat between the first and second experiments provided an opportunity to examine a second hypothesis. This hypothesis posited that a decrease in the perceived seriousness of the threat should potentiate smaller differences in apprehension between high and low rationality story processors. Given reductions in the overall perceived seriousness of the anthrax threat, high rationality individuals should not only show greater reductions in apprehension than lows over time, but the cue value of the traffic deaths story should also diminish for high rationals. Of course, in November 2001 we had no way of knowing what the state of affairs would be with regard to the anthrax threat in January 2002. Nonetheless, news coverage of anthrax and national concern about anthrax both diminished significantly during December and the beginning of January. A Lexis-Nexis search of major newspapers and major television news outlets for the 18-week period of 3 September 2001 to 6 January 2002 was conducted to determine the point at which news coverage of anthrax peaked. The number of anthrax-related items appearing during each week of this period was tallied separately for major newspaper and television news sources (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, CNBC and Fox News). The six

Authors: Berger, Charles., Johnson, Joel. and Lee, Eun-Ju.
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apprehension might decline, perhaps more than the apprehension of low rationals, when
the threat is no longer prominently featured by the media. If their apprehension
concerning a threat declines, we might expect that their need and motivation to minimize
their apprehension about that threat would also decline. Their mode of information
processing and responses might come to resemble those of low rationals. This possibility
was examined in Experiment 2.
Experiment 2
The decline in the perceived seriousness of the anthrax threat between the first
and second experiments provided an opportunity to examine a second hypothesis. This
hypothesis posited that a decrease in the perceived seriousness of the threat should
potentiate smaller differences in apprehension between high and low rationality story
processors. Given reductions in the overall perceived seriousness of the anthrax threat,
high rationality individuals should not only show greater reductions in apprehension than
lows over time, but the cue value of the traffic deaths story should also diminish for high
rationals. Of course, in November 2001 we had no way of knowing what the state of
affairs would be with regard to the anthrax threat in January 2002. Nonetheless, news
coverage of anthrax and national concern about anthrax both diminished significantly
during December and the beginning of January.
A Lexis-Nexis search of major newspapers and major television news outlets for
the 18-week period of 3 September 2001 to 6 January 2002 was conducted to determine
the point at which news coverage of anthrax peaked. The number of anthrax-related items
appearing during each week of this period was tallied separately for major newspaper and
television news sources (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, CNBC and Fox News). The six


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