Can We Take a Risk?

Learning about a human’s way to react to a situation that one would consider to be “risky” really defines who we are as a species. We make decisions based on a vast amount of considerations, and each one of these vital considerations can place a strong impact on the end choice. It only takes something as simple as word phrasing to change the overwhelming majority’s stand on any given opinion. Because of this persuasion, are humans able to determine if something is risky?

Let’s try and remember the risk assessment exercise taken in class among our peers. After given the option to either save 200 out of 600 people, or risk losing the whole population (with a one-third chance of saving all 600 people), we learned that the way the words were phrased changed the decision of the majority of the class. Recall the change in phrasing, and why the front of the class had a majority pick of option A, while the back of the class had a majority pick of option B. This change in data among the class was all by the alternate phrasing of each option. Of course, this data represents an actual theory based on the unusual Asian Disease. But since this data is true, what does it mean for communication in health?

If something as small as phrasing can fine tune the majority vote for a large population, how are we able to decide what is rational and what is decided to be a risk? Let’s take a more personal approach to making risky decisions. We need to take a step back and process the information given to us and think about it from all sides of the spectrum. Healthy communication requires taking a look at what situation is given to us, and determining every possible outcome that can come from each decision that is made. If we refer to the risk assessment exercise, we realize that when 200 people are saved, 400 people die. It is risky to think that 400 people will die when there is a one-third chance of saving all 600 people. But, when 200 people are guaranteed to be saved, a two-thirds chance of 600 people dying sounds worse than assuring that 200 people will stay alive. We need to take into account both sides of analysis in order to confirm the risk that is being taken. But if we’re not able to look past a single phrase, can we take a risk?

Something to think about,

Andrew Ebding

Link to Asian Disease power point Notes:





5 thoughts on “Can We Take a Risk?

  1. Andrew, I agree with you a 100%, we should take into account all the data that is being presented, and make our analysis afterwards. But what happens when you aren’t educated to do so. We had a class discussion on a risk assessment to understands the flaws in risk, but what happens to the people that are presented the same information and don’t have the knowledge or power to do the same. Education plays a huge role in risk assessment, and targeted audiences.



  2. The Asian Disease is an interesting topic. It takes into account the psychology of a person and manipulates it to go towards one side. While yes it is important that we should be telling everyone all the facts in only one way, it would never happen. Commercials and advertisements from food to political parties are aimed at manipulating people to agree with an idea that in a neutral position they would never consider. Also because of the fact that society in general is very quick and gives no time for people to respond or ponder on information, it becomes easier and easier to use these types of persuasion against us . It is just very difficult to make a situation that is unbiased.

    Usamah Ali


  3. Great idea, I enjoyed learning about that study. like another classmate said about them not being educated; What if a person didn’t believe in probability? because of the chance that everybody would die some people would fundamentally disagree and opt to save the confirmed option. Its interesting how it tests peoples ability to work out a sensitive problem in a finite time.

    Chandler B


  4. Can this problem be found in any, or at least most decisions? I believe that most people understand that the way you say things impacts the outcome, but I think we see this on a much smaller level. As kids we learn to say things a certain way to convince our parents to let us do something, or we know that mom will surely say no, but that dad will say yes, or the other way around. We begin analyzing risk from the earliest of ages. The connection I did not make until I was in class is how instrumental this idea can be, not just in every day life, but in politics and government to health. I wonder how many examples we could find of this in our every day lives.

    Halle Van De Hey


  5. I agree that if the information for any action is presented, you should access the risks, similar to triaging. Unfortunately, you don’t always have the complete information on the outcome and sometimes you have to make that hard decision. It’s life! The president for example, has to make decisions like that, do you want “x” amount of people to die or “y” amount of people to die? It’s unfortunate but sometimes that decision has to be made. Life has a lot of risks and rewards, and I think you have to sometimes take the risk to seek the reward, if you choose a decision and the outcome isn’t as planned, it is what it is, just have to move on and learn from those choices you made.

    Gerald Brenner


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