Individuals’ Responses to Near-Miss Events over Time

Principal Investigator: Robin Dillon-Merrill

Other Researchers: Catherine Tinsley, Gary Shiffman


The primary focus of the research at Georgetown University has been to understand how people perceive terrorist events in an attempt to improve future risk communication efforts. One specific focus is on the perception of near-miss terrorism experiences, and the lasting impact of these events over time. Additionally, this year we have begun to add the effects of risk communication message on the interpretation of a near-miss or an actual event. In particular, we have been testing messages that are intended to prime heuristic/affective thoughts versus other messages intended to prime analytical/rational thoughts. We demonstrate that when individuals are given just the news of an attack without a risk inoculation message, individuals are more likely to postpone plans to attend a public event in the next couple of days and are less likely to show strong self-efficacy feelings in response to terrorism than different individuals who also receive a risk inoculation message. We believe the risk inoculation message is priming more analytical thoughts and are working to further test this hypothesis. We also show that participants largely discount the near-miss event and discount how the event could have resulted in casualties if not for luck.