Abstract: When people judge risk or the probability of a risky prospect, single case narratives can bias judgments when a statistical base-rate is also provided. In this work we investigate various methodological and procedural factors that may influence this narrative bias. We found that narratives had the strongest effect on a non-numerical risk measure, which was also the best predictor of behavioral intentions. In contrast, two scales for subjective probability reflected primarily statistical variations. We observed a negativity bias on the risk measure, such that the narratives increased rather than decreased risk perceptions, whereas the effect on probability judgments was symmetric. Additionally, we found no evidence that the narrative bias is solely produced by adherence to conversational norms. Finally, changing the absolute number of narratives reporting the focal event, while keeping their relative frequency constant, had no effect. Thus, individuals extract a representation of likelihood from a sample of single-case narratives, which drives the bias. These results show that the narrative bias is in part dependent on the measure used to assess it and underline the conceptual distinction between subjective probability and perceived risk.
Keywords: risk perception, subjective probability, narratives, cognitive bias, negativity bias