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New year, new paper: Mixture models reveal four basic risk profiles

Posted on Tuesday, Jan 03 2023

In this paper that recently appeared "online first" in the Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, we adopted a new approach to modeling individual differences in people's risk preferences. Specifically, we used a large dataset with separate discovery and validation samples and blinded variable labels to first identify robust dimensions of risk preference, including domain-general and domain-specific components. Using this multidimensional trait space, we then employed a mixture-modeling approach to test the extent to which groups of people may share similar profiles – thus contrasting the traditional and variable-centered perspective, which assumes that different persons may have highly unique configurations of multidimensional risk preferences. In line with our assumption, mixture models revealed that two thirds of the participants of our sample could be very well described by one of four separate risk profiles – please see the article for further details and the exact configurations of these profiles.

Frey, R., Duncan, S. M., & Weber, E. U. (2023). Towards a typology of risk preference: Four risk profiles describe two-thirds of individuals in a large sample of the U.S. population. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 66, 1-17. doi:10.1007/s11166-022-09398-5

Inaugural lecture at UZH

Posted on Tuesday, Jan 03 2023

Shortly before my first year at the University of Zurich as an SNSF Eccellenza professor came to an end it was time to give my official inaugural lecture – please see below for the recording (in German).

Habilitation, venia docendi, and new group members

Posted on Thursday, May 19 2022

I have recently defended my habilitation (i.e., the highest degree one can typically obtain from European universities) with a presentation on "Big Data in psychological research: Benefits and limitations", and consequently I have just received the venia docendi for psychology from my alma mater. Together with a higher education teaching certificate that I also completed earlier this year I now definitely feel well prepared for teaching at the UZH in the fall semester!

There are also some good news concerning our group: Frederic Gnielka joined us from the Humboldt University Berlin to pursue a PhD with CBDR. He has a background in methods and is interested in modeling psychological processes involved in decision making under risk and uncertainty. Moreover, Linus Signer has started as a student research assistant in our group. Welcome to both of you!

New position, new group, new team member!

Posted on Monday, Feb 28 2022

Time flies... it has been almost two months since I have begun my new position as an SNSF Eccellenza professor and started my own group, the Cognitive and Behavioral Decision Research (CBDR) lab, at the Department of Psychology of the University of Zurich. Our mission at CBDR consists of contributing to a better understanding of how people make decisions in the complex modern world full of risk and uncertainty. In doing so we focus on the cognitive processes involved in inter- and intraindividual differences in people's risk perceptions and various risk-taking behaviors, and we are also interested in behavioral interventions and risk communication.

And there are more good news to come: In February Olivia Fischer officially started her PhD at CBDR. Olivia is enthusiastic about modeling polarization processes in people's risk perceptions (her first PhD project), real-life risk taking, and risk communication more generally. Welcome, Olivia!

New paper in Psychological Science: What drives individual differences in people's risk perceptions of 5G?

Posted on Wednesday, Oct 06 2021

What drives people’s perceptions of novel risks, and how malleable are such risk perceptions? A better understanding of these questions is important as a strong polarization of people's risk perceptions may have far-reaching consequences, such as preventing informed debates about the advantages and disadvantages of novel technologies. This is particularly the case in the increasingly connected world, where extreme views are quickly disseminated and contribute to triggering filter bubbles (e.g., through social media). In this paper I provide an analytic framework that integrates multiple potential drivers of risk perception (as identified by previous psychological research), to thus gauge their relative influence in shaping inter- as well as intraindividual differences. In doing so I focused on the latest generation of mobile communications technology – 5G.

Specifically, a multiverse analysis of a representative population sample in Switzerland (Study 1; N = 2,919) suggested that interindividual differences in risk perceptions are strongly associated with hazard-related drivers (e.g., trust in the institutions regulating 5G, dread of 5G) as well as person-specific drivers (e.g., electromagnetic hypersensitivity). Crucially, interindividual differences in risk perceptions of 5G were strongly predictive of people’s policy-related attitudes (e.g., voting intentions, need for more regulation). Moreover a field experiment based on a national expert report on 5G (Study 2; N = 839 in a longitudinal sample) indicated that population-level effects are not readily triggered, yet identified links between intraindividual changes in psychological drivers and perceived risk. As such, these results highlight potential targets for future policy interventions, aimed at reconciling lay people’s conflicting risk perceptions and facilitating (more) informed debates on the advantages and disadvantages of novel technologies in the future.

Frey, R. (2021). Psychological drivers of individual differences in risk perception: A systematic case study focusing on 5G. Psychological Science, 32, 1592-1604. doi:10.1177/0956797621998312 | PDF

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