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Rationality and Context: Antidotes for Anthrax Anecdotes
Unformatted Document Text:  26 Another potentially consequential difference between the present experiments and the previous studies concerns both the ways in which the news stories depicted the focal threat and the types of base-rate data provided in the context-expanding stories. In the prior experiments, the threatening stories depicted quantitative increases in the frequency of cases over time. In the present experiments, a single case served as the threat exemplar. In addition, in the previous studies, the statistical context was provided by increases in population size over time, a relatively benign statistical domain for most persons. By contrast, in the present experiments quantitative data depicting a more threatening domain were employed as contextualizing information. It seems likely that different combinations of focal threat and context-expanding base-rate data might well potentiate different levels of apprehension. Ascertaining the specific ways in which these different formats for depicting threats and relevant base-rate data interact to affect felt apprehension is an important question for future research. One could argue that the unique effects observed between the two experiments might be due to the differences in the manner in which the data were collected. Experiment 1 was administered individually whereas Experiment 2 was administered in a group setting. Although this remains a possibility, comparisons between the experiments on such parameters as rationality, experientiality, television and newspaper consumption, how closely the news was followed, perceived anthrax victimization risk, and the newsworthiness and informativeness of the anthrax story produced no significant differences. Although radio consumption appears to have been curtailed among the Experiment 2 participants, heterogeneous variance rendered the parametric test of this difference suspect. Given the events transpiring during the interval between the two

Authors: Berger, Charles., Johnson, Joel. and Lee, Eun-Ju.
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26
Another potentially consequential difference between the present experiments and
the previous studies concerns both the ways in which the news stories depicted the focal
threat and the types of base-rate data provided in the context-expanding stories. In the
prior experiments, the threatening stories depicted quantitative increases in the frequency
of cases over time. In the present experiments, a single case served as the threat exemplar.
In addition, in the previous studies, the statistical context was provided by increases in
population size over time, a relatively benign statistical domain for most persons. By
contrast, in the present experiments quantitative data depicting a more threatening
domain were employed as contextualizing information. It seems likely that different
combinations of focal threat and context-expanding base-rate data might well potentiate
different levels of apprehension. Ascertaining the specific ways in which these different
formats for depicting threats and relevant base-rate data interact to affect felt
apprehension is an important question for future research.
One could argue that the unique effects observed between the two experiments
might be due to the differences in the manner in which the data were collected.
Experiment 1 was administered individually whereas Experiment 2 was administered in a
group setting. Although this remains a possibility, comparisons between the experiments
on such parameters as rationality, experientiality, television and newspaper consumption,
how closely the news was followed, perceived anthrax victimization risk, and the
newsworthiness and informativeness of the anthrax story produced no significant
differences. Although radio consumption appears to have been curtailed among the
Experiment 2 participants, heterogeneous variance rendered the parametric test of this
difference suspect. Given the events transpiring during the interval between the two


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