Threat perception after the Boston Marathon bombings: The effects of personal relevance and conceptual framing.

Academic Article


  • We examined how the Boston Marathon bombings affected threat perception in the Boston community. In a threat perception task, participants attempted to "shoot" armed targets and avoid shooting unarmed targets. Participants viewing images of the bombings accompanied by affectively negative music and text (e.g., "Terror Strikes Boston") made more false alarms (i.e., more errors "shooting" unarmed targets) compared to participants viewing the same images accompanied by affectively positive music and text (e.g., "Boston Strong") and participants who did not view bombing images. This difference appears to be driven by decreased sensitivity (i.e., decreased ability to distinguish guns from non-guns) as opposed to a more liberal bias (i.e., favouring the "shoot" response). Additionally, the more strongly affected the participant was by the bombings, the more their sensitivity was reduced in the negatively framed condition, suggesting that this framing was particularly detrimental to the most vulnerable individuals in the affected community.
  • Authors

  • Wormwood, Jolie
  • Lynn, Spencer K
  • Feldman Barrett, Lisa
  • Quigley, Karen S
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • 2016
  • Published In


  • Adult
  • Fear
  • Female
  • Firearms
  • Framing
  • Games, Experimental
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Signal detection theory
  • Terrorism
  • Threat accessibility
  • Threat perception
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 539
  • End Page

  • 549
  • Volume

  • 30
  • Issue

  • 3