Communicating Violence Risk: Frequency Formats, Vivid Outcomes, and Forensic Settings
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
Slovic, Monahan, and MacGregor (2000) recently found that clinicians were more likely to keep a patient in the hospital if the patient's violence risk had been communicated in a frequency format ("20 out of 100 patients") as compared to a probability format ("20% likely"). This finding was explained by suggesting that it is easier to visualize frequencies than probabilities. If so, other ways of influencing visualization, such as vivid, compared with pallid, depiction of the violent outcome, should also result in more conservative risk management decisions. The present study examined this hypothesis using data from a survey of experienced clinical psychologists (n=226) who identified a professional interest in forensic psychology through membership information maintained by the American Psychological Association. We found that frequency and vivid depiction both resulted in more conservative risk management decisions, but only for clinicians who worked in forensic facilities. Reasons why forensic psychologists may be particularly sensitive to frequency and vivid depiction are offered.