Project 2 - Social Contact Risk

Project 2 - Social Contact Risk: Dynamic Changes in Social Risk Perception and Interpersonal Behavior (PI Harald Schupp & Britta Renner)

[Social Contact Risk: Dynamische Änderungen der sozialen Risikowahrnehmung und des interpersonellen Verhaltens]


The research project ‘Social Contact Risk’ will examine the dynamics of risk perceptions and precautionary behaviors at two system levels, including short-term brain responses and long-term assessment in real life, in the context of communicable diseases transmitted through interpersonal contact. According to the WHO and other major health organizations, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) provide a great burden for the society. Furthermore, there is evidence that people often have optimistically biased STI risk perceptions, believing that it won’t happen to them. In line with the so-called ‘wicked environment’ conception (Hogarth, 2010), i.e., a lack of valid feedback information, we assume that inaccurate social risk perceptions and STI risk misconceptions are also a consequence of a lack of corrective feedback. Therefore, the project will examine in two Work Packages (WPs) mechanisms of change in risk perceptions by providing individually tailored risk-related feedback (exposure). WP1 will examine exposure to risk-related feedback targeting the risk cycle pre-event phase regarding the question ‘How dangerous/safe is the other person?’. WP2 will focus on the event- and post-event phases by providing feedback regarding the question ‘Who infects whom?’. Overall, the proposed project pursues the following three aims: (1) To determine how receiving individually tailored feedback about ‘false-risky’ and ‘false-safe’ errors in social risk perceptions in the pre-event and event phase leads to changes in other-related STI risk perceptions (‘How dangerous/safe is the other person?’) and self-related STI risk perceptions (‘How vulnerable am I?’) across time, and how this is modulated by preparedness factors (e.g., trait pathogen avoidance). In addition, we will investigate the impact of preparedness (e.g., trait pathogen avoidance) on dynamic changes. (2) To examine dynamic changes in STI risk perceptions and (sexual) risk behaviors in the laboratory and real-world (PEC cycles). (3) To investigate neural correlates of error feedback related to STI risk perceptions and their relation to changes in self- and other-related STI risk perceptions and behavior, i.e., ‘brain-as-predictor approach (Falk et al., 2011). To study the pre-event phase dynamics, we created the dating risk scenario ‘Pairings’, and we designed a sexual risk situation scenario ‘Risk Twin’ for the event and post-event risk dynamics. Both types of paradigms allow assessing intuitive social risk perceptions and behaviors through a combination of neuroimaging methods and self-reports, which will be realized in close collaboration with P3 ‘Personalized Risk’. To capture the dynamics of risk perception and behaviors across PEC cycles in laboratory and real-life settings, we will additionally utilize mobile intensive ‘real-world’ Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) in close collaboration with P3 and P4.


M Sc Alex Kenter

M Sc Martin Imhof

Prof. Dr. Britta Renner (Co-PI)

Prof. Dr. Harald Schupp (PI)