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Rationality and Context: Antidotes for Anthrax Anecdotes
Unformatted Document Text:  24 to the anthrax story was undermined by the general reduction in the perceived seriousness of the anthrax threat. Although it is true that low rationality individuals also evidenced some reduction in their judgments of the seriousness of the anthrax threat over time, this reduction appears not to have translated into a concomitant reduction in apprehension in response to the anthrax story. The fact that the correlations between the judged seriousness of the anthrax threat and apprehension remained stable over both experiments for low rationality individuals, while the correlation between the two variables increased significantly over the two experiments among high rationality participants suggests that highly rational processors may have been more closely monitoring the general environment for cues concerning the anthrax threat’s seriousness. Indeed, in both experiments, highly rational individuals reported following the news more closely than their less rational counterparts. General Discussion Prior research has indicated that base-rate data tend to assuage the apprehension generated by quantitative data indicative of increasing threat only when individuals perceive their personal victimization risk to be at least moderate. When individuals judge their personal victimization risk to be low, base-rate data exert no mollifying effects on apprehension (Berger, 1998, 2000, 2002). The results of the present experiments both call into question the viability of this generalization and suggest that a more complex model is needed to account for these effects. First, the results of the present experiments indicated that individuals judged the likelihood of their becoming anthrax victims to be extremely low. Nonetheless, among highly rational individuals in Experiment 1 the quantitative data

Authors: Berger, Charles., Johnson, Joel. and Lee, Eun-Ju.
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to the anthrax story was undermined by the general reduction in the perceived seriousness
of the anthrax threat.
Although it is true that low rationality individuals also evidenced some reduction
in their judgments of the seriousness of the anthrax threat over time, this reduction
appears not to have translated into a concomitant reduction in apprehension in response
to the anthrax story. The fact that the correlations between the judged seriousness of the
anthrax threat and apprehension remained stable over both experiments for low
rationality individuals, while the correlation between the two variables increased
significantly over the two experiments among high rationality participants suggests that
highly rational processors may have been more closely monitoring the general
environment for cues concerning the anthrax threat’s seriousness. Indeed, in both
experiments, highly rational individuals reported following the news more closely than
their less rational counterparts.
General Discussion
Prior research has indicated that base-rate data tend to assuage the apprehension
generated by quantitative data indicative of increasing threat only when individuals
perceive their personal victimization risk to be at least moderate. When individuals judge
their personal victimization risk to be low, base-rate data exert no mollifying effects on
apprehension (Berger, 1998, 2000, 2002). The results of the present experiments both call
into question the viability of this generalization and suggest that a more complex model is
needed to account for these effects. First, the results of the present experiments indicated
that individuals judged the likelihood of their becoming anthrax victims to be extremely
low. Nonetheless, among highly rational individuals in Experiment 1 the quantitative data


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