Discounting Under Severe Weather Threat

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  • 1 1 Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Science
  • | 2 2 University of Dayton, Department of Psychology
  • | 3 3 University of Florida, Department of Psychology
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Abstract

The human and economic costs of severe weather damage can be mitigated by appropriate preparation. Despite the benefits, researchers have only begun to examine if known decision-making frameworks apply to severe-weather-related decisions. Using experiments, we found that a hyperbolic discounting function accurately described participant decisions to prepare for, and respond to, severe weather, although only delays of 1 month or longer significantly changed decisions to evacuate, suggesting that severe weather that is not imminent does not affect evacuation decisions. In contrast, the probability that a storm would impact the participant influenced evacuation and resource allocation decisions. To influence people’s evacuation decisions, weather forecasters and community planers should focus on disseminating probabilistic information when focusing on short-term weather threats (e.g., hurricanes); delay information appears to affect people’s evacuation decision only for longer-term threats, which may hold promise for climate-change warnings.

Address correspondence to David J. Cox, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine 5510 Nathan Shock Dr, Baltimore, MD, United States 21225, dcox33@jhmi.edu, Contact Information: jl01745@ufl.edu; gdwebs@ufl.edu

Abstract

The human and economic costs of severe weather damage can be mitigated by appropriate preparation. Despite the benefits, researchers have only begun to examine if known decision-making frameworks apply to severe-weather-related decisions. Using experiments, we found that a hyperbolic discounting function accurately described participant decisions to prepare for, and respond to, severe weather, although only delays of 1 month or longer significantly changed decisions to evacuate, suggesting that severe weather that is not imminent does not affect evacuation decisions. In contrast, the probability that a storm would impact the participant influenced evacuation and resource allocation decisions. To influence people’s evacuation decisions, weather forecasters and community planers should focus on disseminating probabilistic information when focusing on short-term weather threats (e.g., hurricanes); delay information appears to affect people’s evacuation decision only for longer-term threats, which may hold promise for climate-change warnings.

Address correspondence to David J. Cox, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine 5510 Nathan Shock Dr, Baltimore, MD, United States 21225, dcox33@jhmi.edu, Contact Information: jl01745@ufl.edu; gdwebs@ufl.edu
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