Worth the risk? Terrorism-induced fear of flying

David J. Weiss, Richard S. John, Heather Rosoff, Thomas Baumert, Mikel Buesa, Javier González Gómez, Aurelia Valiño, Tal Shavit, Mosi Rosenboim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We conducted two bi-national experiments regarding emotional and behavioral responses to a terrorist plot against commercial flights, examining both feelings and projected action. The studies employed hypothetical scenarios in which terrorists attacked airplanes with shoulder-fired missiles as they were landing or taking off from an international airport. The scenarios were built around two factorially crossed manipulated variables, each with three levels: (1) government announcements or actions (2) social norm, expressed as variation in airline ticket sales. Each respondent read a questionnaire containing only one of the nine scenarios. Experiment 1 was conducted in Spain and California (n = 360, 50% female), Experiment 2 in Israel and California (n = 504, 50% female). In both studies, fear and flight plans were not differentially affected by governmental response or social norm. Women expressed more fear than men. Experiment 1 examined the purpose of the trip. Most respondents would not change a planned flight to attend a close friend's wedding or important job interview, but a substantial number would postpone a vacation or drive to a different location. Experiment 2 featured escalating attacks. These yielded increased fear and more canceled trips. Within both studies, responses were similar across countries despite national differences in direct experience with terrorism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12
JournalUniversitas Psychologica
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Emotional response
  • Nominal data
  • Projected action
  • Scenario
  • Terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)


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