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Risk Remedies

May 3, 2006

In the board game "Monopoly," getting a "get out of jail free" card made landing in jail much less of a worry. Is there a similar effect in real life?


How safeguards can backfire. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If there were a cure for lung cancer, would you start smoking? A recent study by University of Florida marketing professor Joel Cohen and his colleagues offers some insight. They found that for people predisposed to risky behaviors, like smoking and gambling, learning about potential remedies for the problem made them more likely to downplay the risk and indulge. But for people who had no such vices, the information had the opposite effect.

JOEL COHEN (University of Florida):
The availability of a remedy would only convince confirmed non-users that, boy, there are serious risks here. And it confirms the correctness, the soundness, of their judgment to avoid the behavior.

So, ironically, marketing remedies can sometimes hurt the people who are the most in need of help. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.