The effect of target group size on risk judgments and comparative optimism: the more, the riskier. Academic Article uri icon


  • In 5 experiments, college students exhibited a group size effect on risk judgments. As the number of individuals in a target group increased, so did participants' judgments of the risk of the average member of the group for a variety of negative life events. This happened regardless of whether the stimuli consisted of photographs of real peers or stick-figure representations of peers. As a result, the degree to which participants exhibited comparative optimism (i.e., judged themselves to be at lower risk than their peers) also increased as the size of the comparison group increased. These results suggest that the typical comparative optimism effect reported so often in the literature might be, at least in part, a group size effect. Additional results include a group size effect on judgments of the likelihood that the average group member will experience positive and neutral events and a group size effect on perceptual judgments of the heights of stick figures. These latter results, in particular, support the existence of a simple, general cognitive mechanism that integrates stimulus numerosity into quantitative judgments about that stimulus.

published proceedings

  • J Pers Soc Psychol

author list (cited authors)

  • Price, P. C., Smith, A. R., & Lench, H. C.

citation count

  • 34

complete list of authors

  • Price, Paul C||Smith, Andrew R||Lench, Heather C

publication date

  • March 2006