Perceived Risk and Worry: The Effects of 9/11 on Willingness to Fly1


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    The authors thank Verlin Hinsz for his help in preparing the manuscript. This work was supported in part by Grant K05 CA92633 from the National Institutes of Health.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kevin McCaul, Department of Psychology, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58105.


Most decision-making models rely on affect-free variables to understand the decisions that people make. We tested an affectively-loaded variable—worry—as a predictor of decision making in an affectively laden context: willingness to fly after 9/11. College students rated their willingness to fly to New York City or Washington, DC, in a study conducted 34 days after 9/11. They also recorded their beliefs about the likelihood that more terrorist attacks would occur, the severity of such attacks if they were to occur, and how much they worried about flying. Finally, they made these estimates for similar others. Results showed that worry was the most powerful predictor of one's own and similar others' willingness to fly. These findings suggest that models of how people make decisions may sometimes need to take feelings into account.