In public health literature, the risk of death or disease associated with genetic, dietary, environmental, or behavioral factors is most commonly denoted by the odds ratio (OR), hazard ratio (HR), or risk ratio (RR). But how do people intuitively perceive risk? We conducted a small experiment in which respondents of diﬀerent ages, sex, and education were asked to rank the risks associated with four diﬀerent habits based on the incidence data of an imaginary deadly disease. Results showed that people judge risk by probability diﬀerence rather than probability ratio. Even individuals formally trained to use OR and HR as risk indicators preferred using probability diﬀerences over ratios to judge their own risk. This preliminary inquiry into intuitive statistical perception suggests that designing statistical indices based on people’s innate perception may be a better strategy than trying to educate people to understand the indices designed by expert statisticians.
Volume 27 | Issue 6