Effects of fear and anger on perceived risks of terrorism: a national field experiment

Psychol Sci. 2003 Mar;14(2):144-50. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.01433.


The aftermath of September 11th highlights the need to understand how emotion affects citizens' responses to risk. It also provides an opportunity to test current theories of such effects. On the basis of appraisal-tendency theory, we predicted opposite effects for anger and fear on risk judgments and policy preferences. In a nationally representative sample of Americans (N = 973, ages 13-88) fear increased risk estimates and plans for precautionary measures; anger did the opposite. These patterns emerged with both experimentally induced emotions and naturally occurring ones. Males had less pessimistic risk estimates than did females, emotion differences explaining 60 to 80% of the gender difference. Emotions also predicted diverging public policy preferences. Discussion focuses on theoretical, methodological, and policy implications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anger*
  • Data Collection
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk
  • Sampling Studies
  • Terrorism*
  • United States