Fear — impacts on decision-making and behavior: update

Fear is corrosive whether caused by events outside our control or if purposefully used (for example, by politicians trying to gain or consolidate power). Fear impacts the decisions we make and the actions we take. We do things we would not do if the fear was not present. We believe things we normally would not. We act against our own best interests.

Featured articles:

*Anestis, M. D., & Bryan, C. J. (2021). Threat perceptions and the intention to acquire firearms. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 133, 113-118. [Cited by]

“Firearm sales have surged during COVID-19, raising concerns about a coming wave of suicide deaths. Little is known, however, about the individuals considering acquiring firearms during the pandemic. Recent research has highlighted that individuals considering acquiring firearms may be motivated by exaggerated threat expectancies. In a sample of 3,500 Americans matched to 2010 United States Census data, we compared individuals intending to buy firearms in the coming 12 months (assessed in late June and early July 2020) to those undecided or not planning to acquire firearms on a range of demographic, anxiety, and firearm ownership variables. Our results indicated that those intending to acquire a firearm in the next twelve months are less tolerant of uncertainty, endorse exaggerated threat expectancies, and are experiencing more severe COVID-19 specific fears. Individuals intending to purchase firearms were also more likely to have experienced suicidal ideation in the past year, to have worked in law enforcement, and to have been considered essential workers during COVID-19. Furthermore, such individuals were more likely to already own firearms and to have purchased firearms during the opening months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those intending to purchase firearms did not endorse lower perceived neighborhood safety, however, indicating that their intent to purchase firearms is unlikely to be driven by tangible threats in their immediate environment. These findings highlight that exaggerated fears may be motivating individuals to purchase firearms to diminish anxiety and that this trend may be particularly common among individuals who already own firearms.”

*Villanueva‐Moya, L., & Expósito, F. (2021). Gender differences in decision‐making: The effects of gender stereotype threat moderated by sensitivity to punishment and fear of negative evaluation. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 34(5), 706-717. [Cited by]

“Research has demonstrated gender differences in the decision-making process, showing that women make more disadvantageous risk decisions than men. However, these differences have not been examined in terms of psychosocial or socio-structural variables, such as the gender stereotype threat. We conducted an experimental study (Ns = 105) to test the well-established stereotype threat effect on decision-making through the Iowa Gambling Task and the possible moderation of this effect by sensitivity to punishment and fear of negative evaluation. The results revealed that women under a stereotype threat condition make more disadvantageous risk decisions than men in the same conditions or women in the nonstereotype threat condition. Moreover, women greatly fearing negative evaluation seemed to make more disadvantageous risk decisions compared with other groups. These findings highlight the relevance of psychosocial variables that legitimize gender inequality, such as the stereotype threat and fear of negative evaluation, in women’s decision-making process.”

These articles have been added to the Fear — impacts on decision-making and behavior bibliography (Science Bibliographies Online). For additional information, search Science Primary Literature (database).

Questions? Please let me know (engelk@grinnell.edu).

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