Mind & Society

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 285–295 | Cite as

Behavioral and emotional responses to escalating terrorism threat

  • Anja S. GöritzEmail author
  • David J. Weiss


We conducted an online study of projected behavioral and emotional responses to escalating terrorist threat. The study employed scenarios in which terrorists targeted commercial airliners with missiles at an international airport. An important feature of attacks on commercial flights is that unlike many other terrorist threats, exposure to the risk can be controlled simply be refusing to fly. Nine scenarios were constructed by crossing two between-subjects factors, each with three levels: (1) planned government protective actions and (2) social norm, expressed as variation in airline ticket sales. Scenarios also incorporated descriptions of three increasingly severe attacks; this was a within-subjects factor. After each description, we asked respondents to imagine they had planned a vacation to a destination 2,500 km away, and we examined their projected fear and behavior. Fear increased and more trips were canceled as the attacks escalated. Government protective actions and social norm had little impact on either fear or planned flying.


Fear Emotion Projected behavior Scenario Terrorism Threat 



This work was supported by research Grant GO 1107/10-1 from the German Research Foundation (DFG) to Anja Göritz. We wish to thank Richard John and Heather Rosoff for their contributions to scenario construction and the experimental design.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.California State University, Los AngelesFullertonUSA

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