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January 17, 2007

Skewed risk perceptions: How you say it matters

A WHO discussion of skewed risk perceptions



Positive or negative framing? Striking changes in preference can result from framing the risk in either positive or negative terms, such as lives saved or lives lost, rates of survival or mortality, improving good health or reducing risks of disease

Relative or absolute risks? Although relative risks are usually better understood, it can be very important to present absolute changes as well.

Percentages or whole numbers? Probabilities are better understood as percentage changes than by comparison of whole numbers.

Whole numbers or an analogy? Whole numbers may be less well understood than an example or analogy for the size of an adverse event.

Small or large numbers? A small number of deaths is more easily understood than a large number, which is often incomprehensible.

Short or long periods? A few deaths at one time or over a short period, as in a tragic accident, often have more impact than a larger number of deaths occurring discretely over a longer period of time.

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