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Br J Psychol. 1998 Nov;89 ( Pt 4):681-96.

Perceptions of risk in motorcyclists: unrealistic optimism, relative realism and predictions of behaviour.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Kent at Canterbury, UK. D.R.Rutter@ukc.ac.uk

Abstract

In the first phase of a prospective investigation, a national sample of motorcyclists completed a postal questionnaire about their perceptions of risk, their behaviour on the roads and their history of accidents and spills. In the second phase a year later, they reported on their accident history and behaviour over the preceding 12 months. A total of 723 respondents completed both questionnaires. Four sets of findings are reported. First, the group as a whole showed unrealistic optimism: on average, respondents believed themselves to be less at risk than other motorcyclists of an accident needing hospital treatment in the next year. Second, optimism was tempered by 'relative realism', in that respondents who were young and inexperienced saw themselves as more at risk than other motorcyclists, as did riders who reported risky behaviours on the road. Third, there was some evidence of debiasing by personal history, in that having a friend or a relative who had been killed or injured on the roads was associated with perceptions of absolute risk of injury or death--though there were no effects on comparative risk and no effects on any of the judgments of a history of accidents of one's own. Finally, there was good evidence that perceptions of risk predicted subsequent behaviour, though generally in the direction not of precaution adoption but of precaution abandonment: the greater the perceived risk at time 1, the more frequent the risky behaviour at time 2. The implications of the findings are discussed, and possible interpretations are suggested.

PMID:
9854808
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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