Are people always more risk averse after disasters? Surveys after a heavy snow-hit and a major earthquake in China in 2008

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Abstract

China suffered both a heavy snow-hit and a major earthquake in 2008. To investigate the effects of disasters on risky decision making, opportunity samples were obtained by recruiting residents in both devastated and non-devastated areas. In a survey (Study 1) conducted shortly after the heavy snow-hit, we found that people were not always more risk averse after a disaster as previous studies had claimed and that they were inclined to approach an option with ‘low probability associated gain’ and to avoid an option with ‘low probability associated loss’. These findings were replicated in a consecutive survey (Study 2) conducted after the Wenchuan earthquake. It was further found that the popularity of both insurance and lottery, which presumably contributed to overweighing of small probabilities, was detected to have been enhanced with substantial exposure to the earthquake disaster. The implications of these findings for risk education and government policy making were discussed. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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