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How Sneezing Changes Federal Spending

The availability bias is incredibly powerful. In this study people who encountered someone sneezing shifted policy preferences to vaccine development over jobs.

The public’s perception of a given health risk increases with coverage of the risk in the news media.

…To instantiate the threat of contagion, we arranged for participants in two field experiments to encounter a sneezing per- son before answering questions about perceived risk. As predicted, exposure to public sneezing increased the perceived risk of contracting a serious disease (which might include the flu), as well as the perceived risk of unrelated threats, namely, having a heart attack and dying from a crime or accident (Study 1). Moreover, sneezing elicited more negative evaluations of the country’s health care system (Study 1) and shifted policy preferences from allocating resources to the creation of green jobs to allocating resources to vaccine development (Study 2).

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