The Effects of Recurrent Mortality Salience Mediated By the Availability Heuristic on Risky Behavior and Subjective Probability

Joseph Thomas Paniculangara, University of Central Florida
Recurrent mortality salience may increase propensity for risky hedonic behaviors as has been observed under conditions of manipulated mortality salience. This recurrent mortality salience could be initiated by conditions of existence that lead to frequent reminders of fatalities associated with such existence. As a result, it is suggested that the availability heuristic would inflate the subjective probability of those causes of mortality that are readily apparent and associated with such existence - leading to lessening of the subjective probability associated with other causes of mortality in domains that are relatively invisible. In terms of support theory, the availability heuristic increases the support perceived for the focal hypothesis and would lead to enhanced implicit subadditivity for the alternate hypothesis. Due to the typicality of risky behavior it might also be possible to elicit implicit superadditivity for judgments of subjective probability relevant to others in contrast to oneself. According to terror management theory, mortality salience results in striving to increase self-esteem. It is suggested that individuals would display risk-seeking behavior as a result of operating in an area of perceived loss of self-esteem relative to their reference points. Further, on release from recurrent mortality salience, such individuals might display risk-averse behavior. Thus, it is proposed that prospect theory can be applied to the malleable dispositional construct of self-esteem. Given the choice between low-risk and high-risk hedonic behavior, individuals would choose the latter when operating under recurrent mortality salience and judge such high-risk behavior as negligible in terms of risk.
[ to cite ]:
Joseph Thomas Paniculangara (2007) ,"The Effects of Recurrent Mortality Salience Mediated By the Availability Heuristic on Risky Behavior and Subjective Probability", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 34, eds. Gavan Fitzsimons and Vicki Morwitz, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 474-480.