The role of behavioral experience in judging risks

Bonnie L. Halpern-Felsher, Susan G. Millstein, Jonathan M. Ellen, Nancy E. Adler, Jeanne M. Tschann, Michael Biehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study used conditional risk assessments to examine the role of behavioral experiences in risk judgments. Adolescents and young adults (ages 10-30; N = 577) were surveyed on their risk judgments for natural hazards and behavior-linked risks, including their personal experiences with these events. Results indicated that participants who had experienced a natural disaster or engaged in a particular risk behavior estimated their chance of experiencing a negative outcome resulting from that event or behavior as less likely than individuals without such experience. These findings challenge the notion that risk judgments motivate behavior and instead suggest that risk judgments may be reflective of behavioral experiences. The results have implications for health education and risk communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-126
Number of pages7
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


  • Adolescents
  • Adults
  • Behavioral experiences
  • Models of health behaviors
  • Risk judgment
  • Risk perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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