Nakayachi, Yokoyama, and Oki (2014) investigated how risk perception and affect may change following a large-scale disaster; such changes could influence individuals’ willingness to take important safety measures. The authors compared data from two national surveys in Japan, one conducted before the 2011 Tohoku quake and associated Fukushima nuclear accident (during which nearly 20,000 people died) and one conducted afterward. These surveys assessed anxiety toward 51 different types of hazards and causes of death. The hypothesis, based on the availability heuristic, was that the widespread and continuous media coverage of the quake and nuclear accident would lead people to easily recall these two hazards, resulting in an overestimation of the likelihood of such events. As predicted, the results showed that post-disaster, anxiety increased primarily toward the types of hazards that had occurred (earthquakes and nuclear accidents) and anxiety toward other types of hazards decreased or was unchanged.
Anxiety after the Tohoku Earthquake
Nakayachi, K., Yokoyama, H. M., & Oki, S. (2014). Public anxiety after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake: Fluctuations in hazard perception after catastrophe. Journal of Risk Research, 18 (2), 156-169.
Anxiety Availability HeuristicMedia Supplement
This NPR podcast discusses the effects of the 2010 earthquake in Chile on the mental health of children. (3 min 31 sec)