Decision-making during a crisis: the interplay of narratives and statistical information before and after crisis communication

Marije H. Bakker* (Corresponding Author), José H. Kerstholt, Marco van Bommel, Ellen Giebels

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
270 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Decision-making during a crisis is affected by several sources of information and prior knowledge, such as factual (statistical) information, narratives of others, and real-time governmental messages. The present study investigated how two types of information (statistics and narratives) influence helping behavior after the occurrence of a traffic accident. We used a scripted crisis scenario in a virtual environment, where several types of behavior could be measured. The main dependent variable was whether participants would move the victim or not. By moving the victim, he would be rescued from a potentially unsafe position (the tilted truck could contain poisonous substances), but moving also entailed a risk of increased injury (according to the statistical information the most likely consequence). Our results indicate that more victims were moved in the narrative condition before an official message was received. Participants who had received statistical information or both types of information performed similar to the control condition. After the official message, informing participants to keep distance, more victims were moved in the narrative condition and in the combined narrative and statistical condition. A narrative therefore has stronger effects when (information about) the actual situation matches the narrative’s content. In contrast with our expectations, affective response did not mediate the relationship between narrative information and moving victims. An alternative explanation would be that narratives trigger a more heuristic way of information processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1409-1424
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of risk research
Volume22
Issue number11
Early online date14 May 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • decision making
  • narratives
  • statistical information
  • virtual environment
  • Crisis communication

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