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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

The inverse relation between risks and benefits: The impact of individual differences in information processing style

Sleboda, Patrycja; Lagerkvist, Carl Johan


Existing research shows that evaluations of the risks and benefits of various hazards (i.e., technologies and activities) are inversely related. The affect heuristic explains the negative relation between risks and benefits, as based on the strength of positive or negative affect associated with a hazard. Research on the affect heuristic previously investigated under which conditions people judge risk and benefits independently, focusing on expertise as a factor that might exempt from inversely related judgements of risk and benefits. Measurements within Dual Process Theories have been found to be associated with rational, analytical decision making and accurate judgments. In this paper we investigated the extent to which rational information processing styles can predict the risk-benefit relation of technologies in a medical and food applications and whether the attitudes influence the strength or direction of the relationship. Using the Need for Cognition Scale (NFC), a psychometric-based risk scale and an explicit measure of attitude, in a representative sample of 3228 Swedes, we found that the high NFC group judged the risks and benefits of technologies to be inversely related. In contrast, the low NFC group judged the risks and benefits to be positively related. These results were confirmed across all studied technologies by applying moderation analysis. We discuss the results in light of recent research on cognitive processing and polarization over technologies' risks.

Published in

2021, volume: 16, number: 8, article number: e0255569

Authors' information

Sleboda, Patrycja
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Economics
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Economics

UKÄ Subject classification

Social Psychology

Publication Identifiers


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