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Spontaneous comparisons with others in gay men´s judgements of HIV risk
journal contributionposted on 2007-01-01, 00:00 authored by Ron Gold
In studies on ‘unrealistic optimism’ (UO), when people are asked questions designed to make them compare their risk of experiencing an undesirable event with that of the average person, they tend to respond that their risk is lower. This study investigated whether comparisons of own and others’ risk also occur spontaneously, unprovoked by such questions. Gay men uninfected with HIV (n¼50) were asked to think aloud about their risk of becoming infected; their comments were audiotaped and analysed. Over half the men added comments relating to others’ risk. The phrasing of these comments and the reported basis for them are described. The men represented others’ risk as relatively high, own risk as relatively low. In the case of onethird of the men, it seemed possible to be confident that a comparison was being made. The findings suggest that comparisons of own and others’ risk do occur spontaneously and that, while the judgements made in UO studies do not capture all the characteristics of those made spontaneously, they resemble them in important ways.