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Health Educ Res. 2001 Oct;16(5):533-40.

Is optimistic bias influenced by control or delay?

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School of Psychology, Faculty of Health and Behavioral Sciences, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria 3217, Australia.


Optimistic bias is a commonly observed but poorly explained phenomenon. Our aim was to determine whether optimistic bias varied according to the nature of the event. Two event characteristics were explored: control and delay. A sample of 100 participants aged 18-30 years was randomly selected from the local residential telephone directory. Respondents were interviewed over the telephone. The highly structured interview schedule assessed respondents' perceptions of their own risk, and the risk of an average person of their age and sex for experiencing four negative life events: developing skin cancer, being involved in a serious car accident as the driver, being involved in a serious car accident as a passenger and having to wear a hearing aid. It also assessed respondents' perceptions of control and delay for each event. Data analysis using a repeated-measures MANOVA showed that optimistic bias occurred for all four events. Optimistic bias was significantly greater for the two events high in control (skin cancer and accident as the driver) than for those low in control (accident as a passenger and hearing aid). Delay was not related to the magnitude of optimistic bias. These findings have implications for health promotion campaigns and self-protective behaviors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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