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Are some deaths worse than others ? the effect of ‘labelling’ on people’s perceptions.

Robinson, A. and Covey, J. and Spencer, A. and Loomes, G. (2010) 'Are some deaths worse than others ? the effect of ‘labelling’ on people’s perceptions.', Journal of economic psychology., 31 (3). pp. 444-455.


This paper sets out to explore the extent to which perceptions regarding the ’badness’ of different types of deaths differ according to how those deaths are ’labelled’ in the elicitation procedure. In particular, we were interested in whether responses to ’contextual’ questions – where the specific context in which the deaths occur is known – differ from ’generic’ questions – where the context is unknown. Further, we set out to test whether sensitivity to the numbers of deaths differed across the ’generic’ and ’contextual’ versions of the questions. We uncovered evidence to suggest that both the perceived ’badness’ of different types of deaths and sensitivity to the numbers of deaths may differ according to whether ’generic’ or ’contextual’ descriptions are used. Qualitative data suggests two reasons why responses to ’generic’ and ’contextual’ questions differed: firstly, some influential variable(s) were omitted from the ’generic’ descriptions and secondly, certain variables were interpreted somewhat differently once the context had been identified. The implications of our findings for ’generic’ questions, such as those commonly used in health and safety and environmental studies are discussed.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Preferences, Context effects, Affect heuristic.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:NOTICE: this is the author's version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of economic psychology.
Record Created:17 Jun 2010 09:35
Last Modified:15 Jul 2010 16:29

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