This article seeks to further our understanding of self-protective behavior by examining the effects of a particularly powerful stimulus to action: personal experience. It reviews the effects of automobile accidents on seat belt use, criminal victimization other than rape on individual crime prevention efforts, natural hazards experience on both natural hazards preparedness and compliance with evacuation warnings, and myocardial infarction on smoking. Theories suggesting mechanisms that could link personal experience to behavior are described, and data concerning the effects of experience on some key variables in these theories are discussed. Tentative propositions are offered to resolve the many apparent discrepancies in this literature. These propositions concern the effects of experience on risk perceptions, the influence of experience on risk salience, the specificity of responses to victimization, and the duration of experience effects.