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Rationality and Context: Antidotes for Anthrax Anecdotes
Unformatted Document Text:  8 Pacini & Epstein, 1999). Moreover, the two thinking styles are differentially related to other characteristics. Rational thinking has been found to be more strongly associated with adjustment and coping ability than has experiential thinking. In contrast, the experiential thinking style appears to be more strongly related to development of positive interpersonal relationships than does the rational style (Epstein, Pacini, Denes-Raj, & Heier, 1996). In addition, highly rational processors gave significantly fewer non-optimal responses on a probability estimation task than did their low rational counterparts. Experientiality was unrelated to optimality of task performance (Pacini & Epstein, 1999). Given the nature of the rational system, individuals who tend to employ a rational thinking style should be better able than those who do not prefer this style at recognizing and integrating relevant base-rate data into judgments about their levels of felt apprehension when faced with a threat. That is, those who are more adept at and prefer to employ rational thinking should be better able than their less rational thinking-oriented counterparts to discount the magnitude of a threat if information about the threat is placed in a wider context that tends to minimize the focal threat’s seriousness. For example, the apprehension generated by exposure to a news story reporting a lone botulism death might be mollified were it preceded by a story reporting statistical data concerning a much more frequent cause of death such as heart disease. The contrast set up by these two stories should lead individuals to be less apprehensive about botulism than they would be if they read only the botulism story. When such contextually relevant statistical information is provided, those who show a proclivity for engaging in rational thinking should exhibit greater reductions in felt apprehension than those who show less of a proclivity for this style.

Authors: Berger, Charles., Johnson, Joel. and Lee, Eun-Ju.
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Pacini & Epstein, 1999). Moreover, the two thinking styles are differentially related to
other characteristics. Rational thinking has been found to be more strongly associated
with adjustment and coping ability than has experiential thinking. In contrast, the
experiential thinking style appears to be more strongly related to development of positive
interpersonal relationships than does the rational style (Epstein, Pacini, Denes-Raj, &
Heier, 1996). In addition, highly rational processors gave significantly fewer non-optimal
responses on a probability estimation task than did their low rational counterparts.
Experientiality was unrelated to optimality of task performance (Pacini & Epstein, 1999).
Given the nature of the rational system, individuals who tend to employ a rational
thinking style should be better able than those who do not prefer this style at recognizing
and integrating relevant base-rate data into judgments about their levels of felt
apprehension when faced with a threat. That is, those who are more adept at and prefer to
employ rational thinking should be better able than their less rational thinking-oriented
counterparts to discount the magnitude of a threat if information about the threat is placed
in a wider context that tends to minimize the focal threat’s seriousness. For example, the
apprehension generated by exposure to a news story reporting a lone botulism death
might be mollified were it preceded by a story reporting statistical data concerning a
much more frequent cause of death such as heart disease. The contrast set up by these
two stories should lead individuals to be less apprehensive about botulism than they
would be if they read only the botulism story. When such contextually relevant statistical
information is provided, those who show a proclivity for engaging in rational thinking
should exhibit greater reductions in felt apprehension than those who show less of a
proclivity for this style.


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