The Differential Effects of Fear and Tranquility on Risk Taking When Probabilistic Information is Communicated in Verbal Terms

  • Ece TuncelEmail author
  • William P. Bottom


Verbal probability expressions are often used to communicate risk in decision making situations. We tested the argument that fear would lead to more pessimistic risk perceptions and higher risk aversion than tranquility when the verbal probability expression used to communicate risk is more (vs. less) ambiguous. In Experiment 1, using a dispute resolution context, we found that fear led to a lower impasse rate than tranquility when the probability of winning in court was described using the ambiguous probability word ‘a chance’ than when less ambiguous probability words were used (i.e., doubtful, probable). In Experiment 2, we replicated this effect using a risky-choice task. Participants in the fear condition were more likely to choose the safe option than those in the tranquil emotion condition when risk was communicated using the ambiguous probability word ‘a chance’ (vs. ‘doubtful’ and ‘probable’). The implications of these findings for emotion, risk taking, and risk communication literatures are discussed.


Emotion Verbal probability expression Risk perception Risk taking Risk communication Dispute resolution 



This project was supported in part by a Webster University Faculty Research Grant awarded to the first author.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.George Herbert School of Management and TechnologyWebster UniversityWebster GrovesUSA
  2. 2.John M. Olin School of BusinessWashington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA

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