The narrative bias: information obtained from others' personal experiences influences risk behaviour more than that presented as a formal description


We previously presented findings that indicate that information obtained by personal experience influences (risk) behaviour (and presumably the perception of the situation that precedes the behaviour) more than the same information presented by the means of formal description (Weber et al., 2004). In 1977, Borgida and Nisbett demonstrated that the same held for experiences of others. Namely, these authors showed that students' course choice was much more influenced by brief information they received from a small number of other students than by the course evaluations that were given in the form of statistical summary, i.e. as averaged rating of all students who previously took the course (Borgida & Nisbett, 1977). This dominance of narrative bias is also present in the domain of risk assessment. For example, Betsch, Renkewitzand, and Haase (2013) showed that narratives regarding the adverse events related to vaccines affected perceived risk of vaccination more than the information presented in the form of statistical risk. This effect was stronger when the narrative was highly emotional (Betsch et al., 2013).

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