Project: Emotions and terrorism

Contact: Baruch Fischhoff

The aftermath of September 11th highlights the need to understand how emotion affects citizens' responses to risk. It also provides an opportunity to test current theories of such effects. Based on appraisal-tendency theory (Lerner & Keltner, 2000, 2001), our study predicted opposite effects for anger and fear, on risk judgments and policy preferences. In a nationally representative sample of Americans (N = 973, ages 13-88), fear increased risk estimates and plans for precautionary measures; anger did the opposite. These patterns emerged with both experimentally induced emotions and naturally occurring ones. Males had less pessimistic risk estimates than did females, emotion differences explaining some 80% of the gender difference. Emotions also predicted diverging public policy preferences. The first paper from this project focuses on theoretical, methodological, and policy implications of the above findings. Subsequent papers are exploring (1) the relationships between geographical proximity to attack and risk perception and (2) the effect of emotions on attributions of causality.

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Click here for publications on emotions.