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Rationality and Context: Antidotes for Anthrax Anecdotes
Unformatted Document Text:  6 Several experiments have evaluated the general hypothesis that, compared with people not exposed to population increase data, individuals provided with data indicative of population increases over time will manifest lower levels of apprehension and victimization risk in response to frequency data depictions of increases in threatening phenomena over the same time period (Berger, 1998, 2000, 2002). The results of these studies revealed support for this hypothesis, but within the context of interactions with sex and perceived risk. When the risk of a threatening phenomenon was perceived to be low (AIDS, carjacking, homicide), provision of increasing population numbers over time did nothing to mollify the apprehension of either women or men. By contrast, when perceived risk of the threat was moderate (burglary, cancer, traffic accidents), men who received population data before reading a story containing frequency data indicative of increases in the threat reported significantly less apprehension than did men not first exposed to the population data (Berger, 1998, Experiment 2). Women exposed to population data demonstrated no reduction in apprehension relative to women not exposed to the population data. This interaction was replicated in two experiments (Berger, 2000), and a subsequent experiment revealed that the interaction remained after statistical skill differences were controlled (Berger, 2002). These experiments generally suggest that individual differences in the ways people process information may play a key role in determining whether and to what extent base-rate data will modulate the amount of apprehension experienced in response to exposure to threat. Particularly germane to potential stylistic differences in the way information is processed is the work on Cognitive-Experiential Self-Theory (CEST) (Epstein, 1990, 1994, in press; Epstein & Pacini, 1999). This theory posits two distinct

Authors: Berger, Charles., Johnson, Joel. and Lee, Eun-Ju.
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Several experiments have evaluated the general hypothesis that, compared with
people not exposed to population increase data, individuals provided with data indicative
of population increases over time will manifest lower levels of apprehension and
victimization risk in response to frequency data depictions of increases in threatening
phenomena over the same time period (Berger, 1998, 2000, 2002). The results of these
studies revealed support for this hypothesis, but within the context of interactions with
sex and perceived risk. When the risk of a threatening phenomenon was perceived to be
low (AIDS, carjacking, homicide), provision of increasing population numbers over time
did nothing to mollify the apprehension of either women or men. By contrast, when
perceived risk of the threat was moderate (burglary, cancer, traffic accidents), men who
received population data before reading a story containing frequency data indicative of
increases in the threat reported significantly less apprehension than did men not first
exposed to the population data (Berger, 1998, Experiment 2). Women exposed to
population data demonstrated no reduction in apprehension relative to women not
exposed to the population data. This interaction was replicated in two experiments
(Berger, 2000), and a subsequent experiment revealed that the interaction remained after
statistical skill differences were controlled (Berger, 2002).
These experiments generally suggest that individual differences in the ways
people process information may play a key role in determining whether and to what
extent base-rate data will modulate the amount of apprehension experienced in response
to exposure to threat. Particularly germane to potential stylistic differences in the way
information is processed is the work on Cognitive-Experiential Self-Theory (CEST)
(Epstein, 1990, 1994, in press; Epstein & Pacini, 1999). This theory posits two distinct


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