Author: Matthew B. Stephensen

Should I Judge Safety or Danger? Perceived Risk in Avalanche Terrain Depends on the Question Frame

The language used to formulate risk judgments and its influence on the cognitive processes of decision making has pragmatic implications for the effectiveness of avalanche safety strategies. Phrasing a risk judgment in terms of how safe the slope is (vs. how dangerous it is) resulted in lower judged safety values and a lower likelihood of skiing the slope. Our experimental findings highlight a promising direction for the strategic application of question framing for increased avalanche safety.

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Confidence in Absolute Perceptions of Risk

Faced with uncertainty and risk, people must form and maintain confidence about the accuracy of their decisions in order to act. Our experimental findings indicate that confidence increases as the perceived safety or danger of avalanche terrain becomes more extreme. In addition, the degree of (dis)liking the backcountry scenario magnifies confidence in extreme judgments. These findings have implications for understanding behaviour in avalanche terrain.

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