Travel risks in a time of terror: judgments and choices

Risk Anal. 2004 Oct;24(5):1301-9. doi: 10.1111/j.0272-4332.2004.00527.x.


Shortly after the 2002 terrorist attacks in Bali, readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine were surveyed regarding their views on the risks of travel to various destinations. Their risk estimates were highest for Israel, and lowest for Canada. Estimates for the different destinations correlated positively with (1) one another, (2) concern over aspects of travel that can make one feel at risk (e.g., sticking out as an American), (3) worries about other travel problems (e.g., contracting an infectious disease), and (4) attitudes toward risk. Respondents' willingness to travel to a destination was predicted well by whether their estimate of its risk was above or below their general threshold for the acceptability of travel risks. Overall, the responses suggest orderly choices, based on highly uncertain judgments of risks. Worry played a significant role in these choices, even after controlling for cognitive considerations, thereby supporting the recently proposed "risk as feelings" hypothesis. Thus, even among people who have generally consistent and defensible beliefs, emotions may affect choices. These results emerged with people selected for their interest in and experience with the decision domain (travel), but challenged to incorporate a new concern (terror).