Toxics, Toyotas, and Terrorism: The Behavioral Economics, of Fear and Stigma

Schulze, William D. and Brian Wansink (2012), “Toxics, Toyotas, and Terrorism: The Behavioral Economics of Fear and Stigma,” Risk Analysis, 32:4 (April), 678-694.

45 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2012 Last revised: 30 Apr 2017

See all articles by William D. Schulze

William D. Schulze

Cornell University - Department of Economics

Brian Wansink

Retired

Date Written: November 3, 2011

Abstract

Economists have traditionally viewed the behavioral response to risk as continuous and proportional. In contrast, psychologists have often contended that people have little control over their response to risk that is dichotomous, non-proportional, visceral, and fear-based. In extreme cases, this automatic response results in the stigmatization of a product, technology, or choice, which seemingly cannot be eliminated or reduced. In resolving these contrasting perspectives, we review four recent studies that blend behavioral economics and psychology. Together they provide evidence for a dual process decision model for risk that incorporates both reason and fear. They show consumers’ responses to perceived risk are a mix of proportional and dichotomous (safe/unsafe) responses that are relatively more continuous in situations where deliberation is possible and more dichotomous in emotional or stressful circumstances. These findings reconcile mixed results in past studies and, more importantly, the dual process model allows a clear definition of stigma and suggests new ways to mitigate stigma as well as to help manage potentially damaging over-reactions to it.

Keywords: Behavioral economics, dual process, fear, stigma

JEL Classification: D030, D120, D810

Suggested Citation

Schulze, William D. and Wansink, Brian, Toxics, Toyotas, and Terrorism: The Behavioral Economics, of Fear and Stigma (November 3, 2011). Schulze, William D. and Brian Wansink (2012), “Toxics, Toyotas, and Terrorism: The Behavioral Economics of Fear and Stigma,” Risk Analysis, 32:4 (April), 678-694., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2016217

William D. Schulze (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Department of Economics ( email )

414 Uris Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-7601
United States
607-255-9611 (Phone)
607-255-9984 (Fax)

Brian Wansink

Retired ( email )

607-319-0123 (Phone)

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