PRAGMATIC PUBLIC POLICY: APPLYING PSYCHOPHYSICS TO THE WORLD OF ATTITUDES
The question we address in this paper is how to create a database of the citizenâ€™s mind about anxiety-provoking situations in the face of terrorism. The approach we use is grounded in a combination of experimental design, psychophysics, and consumer research. To this end we ran a set of 15 studies (Deal With It!) using conjoint analysis in order to understand how consumers respond to anxiety-provoking situations. The approach identifies the mindset towards terrorism at the individual respondent level. By exploring responses to terrorism embedded in a general study of â€˜dealing with anxiety provoking situationsâ€™ it becomes possible to understand the algebra of the individual respondentâ€™s mind; how important the basic fear of terrorism actually is, how important it is to specify the type of terrorism (e.g., bombing versus contamination of the food supply), and the structure of what is frightening the consumer. What are the critical drivers of anxiety -- the specific terrorist act, the location of the act, the feelings, or even the proposed remedies to reduce anxiety? The outcome of the research is both an empirical dataset, and the beginnings of a new sub-discipline in social science, called tentatively â€˜Prescriptive Public Policyâ€™ (PPP). PPP uses psychophysical approaches to understand the problems as a scientist would in his search for general patterns of relations between variables (nomothetic), to solve a particular communications problem as an engineer would, and to understand the individual mind, as a clinical psychologist would (idiographic).