Optimistic bias in cancer risk perception: a cross-national study

Psychol Rep. 1995 Aug;77(1):143-6. doi: 10.2466/pr0.1995.77.1.143.


Results are presented from a pilot study in which risk perceptions for developing cancer in samples of American and British adults were compared. 61 American and 43 British people estimated the likelihood of cancer happening to themselves and the average person. As a group, participants tended to judge their personal likelihood of developing cancer as less than the average, supporting the presence of an optimistic bias. However, compared to the Americans, British respondents tended to perceive both themselves and the average person to be less likely to develop cancer. There were no gender differences or interactions between the variables. Discussion centered on possible variations between the two countries with respect to perceptions of control and responsibility for one's health status which may account for the findings.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Denial, Psychological*
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States