What if I am the one? Measuring individual differences in emotional sensitivity to probability and emotional reactivity to possibility

Document Type



health decisions; individual differences; risk perception; sensitivity to probability

Identifier Data



Wiley Online Library

Publication Source

Journal of Behavioral Decision Making


Current theories of risk perception point to the powerful role of emotion and the neglect of probabilistic information in the face of risk, but these tendencies differ across individuals. We propose a method for measuring individuals' emotional sensitivity to probability to assess how feelings about probabilities, rather than the probabilities themselves, influence decisions. Participants gave affective ratings (worry or excitement) to 14 risky events, each with a specified probability ranging from 1 in 10 to 1 in 10,000,000. For each participant, we regressed these emotional responses against item probabilities, estimating a slope (the degree to which emotional responses change with probability) and an intercept (the emotional reaction to an event with a fixed probability). These two parameters were treated as individual difference scores and included in models predicting reactions to several health risk scenarios. Both emotional sensitivity to probability (slope) and emotional reactivity to possibility (intercept) significantly predicted responses to these scenarios, above and beyond the predictive power of other well‐established individual difference measures.