Friday, November 20, 2015

New Research: How "Recollection Bias" can Hinder Effective Policy

"The ways in which people subconsciously process group trauma events may impair society’s ability to implement effective public policies for reducing the likelihood or consequence of such events.  That is one conclusion reached in a new Harvard Kennedy School Faculty Research Working Paper titled 'Recollection Bias and Its Underpinnings: Lessons from Terrorism-Risk Assessments,' co-authored by Richard J. Zeckhauser, Frank P. Ramsey Professor of Political Economy.

Recollection bias is the phenomenon whereby people hold the same perceptions of a risk following a highly unexpected event as they believe they held prior to it. That is, they fail to recognize the learning that should come from highly unusual happenings. Previous research by the same authors showed that only one in five people do not experience this bias.

In this new study, Zeckhauser and co-author W. Kip Viscusi of Vanderbilt Law School focused on responses to two catastrophic attacks that took place in the United States – the 9/11 attacks that took the lives of almost 3,000 people, and the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 – to determine how recollection bias impacts subsequent mitigation strategies."

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