September 20 , 2006. 3:00-4:30pm. Porter Hall 223D, Carnegie Mellon University

Adolescents' Perceived Risk of Dying

Presenter: Andrew Parker, RAND

For many significant life events, adolescents' expectations are generally accurate or moderately optimistic. Nonetheless, they greatly overestimate the chances of dying prematurely (Fischhoff et al., 2000). These judgments do not seem to reflect a general inability to think probabilistically about the future, but some aspects of how they view their own mortality. Drawing on three large surveys (two national, one regional), we examine correlates of mortality judgments, corresponding to three classes of explanation. We find that mortality estimates are higher for teens who report (1) direct threats to their lives (e.g., living in an unsafe neighborhood), (2) feelings of insecurity (e.g., about experiencing good outcomes in the future, such as receiving a college degree) and (3) signs of developmental myopia (e.g., difficulty imagining the future). We discuss possible relationships between teens' behavior and their confidence in having a future.

This is a paper that was recently rejected by Developmental Psychology. I will be also be presenting these criticisms and inviting discussion on how to address them and improve the manuscript. Co-authors are Baruch Fischhoff, Wändi Bruine de Bruin, Susan G. Millstein, and Bonnie L. Halpern-Felsher.