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Testing the limits of optimistic bias: event and person moderators in a multilevel framework

Harris, P.R., Griffin, D.W. and Murray, S. (2008) Testing the limits of optimistic bias: event and person moderators in a multilevel framework. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95 (5). pp. 1225-1237. ISSN 0022-3514

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N. D. Weinstein (1980) established that optimistic bias, the tendency to see others as more vulnerable to risks than the self, varies across types of event. Subsequently, researchers have documented that this phenomenon, also known as comparative optimism, also varies across types of people. The authors integrate hypotheses originally advanced by Weinstein concerning event-characteristic moderators with later arguments that such optimism may be restricted to certain subgroups. Using multilevel modeling over 7 samples (N = 1,436), the authors found that some degree of comparative optimism was present for virtually all individuals and events. Holding other variables constant, higher perceived frequency and severity were associated with less comparative optimism, higher perceived controllability and stereotype salience with more comparative optimism. Frequency, controllability, and severity were associated more with self-risk than with average-other risk, whereas stereotype salience was associated more with average-other risk than with self-risk. Individual differences also mattered: comparative optimism was related negatively to anxiety and positively to defensiveness and self-esteem. Interaction results imply that both individual differences and event characteristics should jointly be considered in understanding optimistic bias (or comparative optimism) and its application to risk communication.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: optimistic bias; comparative optimism; risk perception; risk communication; repressive coping
Institution: The University of Sheffield
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Science (Sheffield) > Department of Psychology (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Miss Anthea Tucker
Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2009 10:03
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2009 10:03
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0013315
Status: Published
Publisher: American Psychological Association
Identification Number: 10.1037/a0013315
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/9837

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