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“It won’t happen to me.” Optimism, biases, and recall of road-risk information.

Pedruzzi, R, Swinbourne, A L (Peer reviewed)


ACRS conference 2009

Previous research has demonstrated that dispositional optimism is adaptive in terms of facilitating the processing of heath risk information (e.g. Aspinwall & Brunhart, 1996). In contrast, optimism bias appears to impede the processing of health risk information (Radcliffe & Klein, 2002). However, until now there has been no examination of whether both factors impact upon the processing of road risk information. The aim of the reported study was to address this gap. On the basis of past research findings it was hypothesised that participants high on dispositional optimism would have greatest recall for road risk information. It was further hypothesised that optimistically biased participants would have poorer recall for risk information. A community sample of 325 licensed drivers was recruited from the Townsville region. Results indicated the hypotheses were not supported. Participants high on optimism tended to remember more neutral information than risk information. In addition, there were no significant effects of optimism bias on recall. It seems that information about road risks is qualitatively different to information about health risks. That is, recall for road related risk information can not be predicted by optimism and optimism bias as it can be with health behaviours. Results are discussed in light of the differences in perceived controllability of health behaviours and road related behaviours. The implications of these results for road safety campaigns will be explored.