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Keywords:

  • subjective probability;
  • frequency estimates;
  • smoking risk

Abstract

A standard method for assessing whether people have appropriate internal representations of an event's likelihood is to check whether their subjective probability or frequency estimates for the event correspond with the assumed objective value for that event. When a person's estimate for the event exceeds its assumed objective probability or frequency, the person's expectancy for the event is concluded to be greater than warranted. This paper describes three lines of reasoning as to why conclusions of this sort can be problematic. Recently published findings as well as data from two new experiments are described to support this main thesis. The case of smoking risk is used to illustrate the more general problem, and issues that must be considered to avoid or contend with the problem are discussed. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.