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Keywords:

  • Disutility elicitation;
  • perceived mortality risk;
  • risk preferences;
  • stated-choice experiments

This article deals with the question of how societal impacts of fatal accidents can be integrated into the management of natural or man-made hazards. Today, many governmental agencies give additional weight to the number of potential fatalities in their risk assessments to reflect society's aversion to large accidents. Although mortality risk aversion has been proposed in numerous risk management guidelines, there has been no evidence that lay people want public decisionmakers to overweight infrequent accidents of large societal consequences against more frequent ones of smaller societal consequences. Furthermore, it is not known whether public decisionmakers actually do such overweighting when they decide upon the mitigation of natural or technical hazards. In this article, we report on two experimental tasks that required participants to evaluate negative prospects involving 1–100 potential fatalities. Our results show that neither lay people nor hazard experts exhibit risk-averse behavior in decisions on mortality risks.