Understanding cumulative risk
McCloy, R. A., Byrne, R. M. J. and Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2010) Understanding cumulative risk. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology , 63 (3). pp. 499-515. ISSN 0272-4987
To link to this article DOI: 10.1080/17470210903024784
This paper summarizes the theory of simple cumulative risks—for example, the risk of food poisoning from the consumption of a series of portions of tainted food. Problems concerning such risks are extraordinarily difficult for naı¨ve individuals, and the paper explains the reasons for this difficulty. It describes how naı¨ve individuals usually attempt to estimate cumulative risks, and it outlines a computer program that models these methods. This account predicts that estimates can be improved if problems of cumulative risk are framed so that individuals can focus on the appropriate subset of cases. The paper reports two experiments that corroborated this prediction. They also showed that whether problems are stated in terms of frequencies (80 out of 100 people got food poisoning) or in terms of percentages (80% of people got food poisoning) did not reliably affect accuracy.