What is it about?

Risk can be understood in term of the complementary dimensions "safety" and "danger." Importantly, which of those you chose when making a judgment influences the perception of risk. Risk judgments framed in terms of safety (How safe is it?) resulted in more cautious, conservative judgments than when framed in terms of danger (How dangerous is it?), irrespective of the objective risk of the judged object. The question frame directs the decision maker's attention in a way that guides selective evidence collection and analysis. This influence on risk perception has an indirect influence on behavior.

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Why is it important?

Our findings suggest that the question frame directed attention in a way that guided selective evidence sampling rather than indicating a valence-consistent or communication-driven framing effect. These findings have the potential to inform the development of policies and practices that harness question framing in domains of applied risk perception and risk communication. The adoption of a procedure strategy such as that afforded by framing risk judgment questions can boost people’s natural decision making competencies in order to ensure safer risk perceptions and behavior.


This research used the exciting decision task of judging the risk of avalanche during hypothetical backcountry ski tours. Decision making in avalanche terrain provides a paradigmatic case for investigating decisions under real-life uncertainty among an experienced, highly motivated population. Yet the relevance of this research is not limited to backcountry skiing. Frame selection and the strategic phrasing of risk judgments are relevant for a range of disciplines and contexts of applied decision making.

Matthew Stephensen
UiT Norges arktiske universitet

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Should I judge safety or danger? Perceived risk depends on the question frame., Journal of Experimental Psychology Applied, September 2021, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/xap0000354.
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