Three items appear below:

1    Survey on Attitudes to Asteroids                           B Stett
2    Survey Form [and showing number of replies to each question]
3    Asteroids and Their Impact--Update                      L Storm

SURVEY ON ATTITUDES TO ASTEROIDS

(Investigator 63, 1998 November)

Following the receipt of the article Asteroids And Their Impact (Investigator 62), a mini survey of 65 people was conducted.

The response total to each question is marked on the survey form below.

The sample size was too small to represent the whole population and therefore results are merely suggestive.

The tables of results below indicate that:

• Under 21 year olds are more worried by asteroids than those over 21;
• Respondents who watched movies about asteroids worry more than those who didn’t with maximum worry at two movies;
• Respondents of all four age categories are equally prepared to donate \$1-\$10 to research but the under 21s and over 60s are more ready to donate \$51-\$100;
• Males are less likely to donate \$1-\$10 to research than females but more likely to donate \$51-\$100;
• Educational level is independent of willingness to donate to research.

DEGREE OF WORRY OVER ASTEROIDS BY AGE

 NO WORRY SLIGHT VERY TERRIFIED Under 21 [4]  36 % [5] 45% [2] 18% 21 to 40 [24] 86% [2]   7% [2] 7% 41 to 60 [16] 80% [3] 15% [1] 5% Over 60 [5]  83 % [1] 17%

WORRY COMPARED TO NUMBER OF MOVIES WATCHED
[Two errors in the magazine are here corrected]
(Due to small sample size the three levels of "worry" are combined)

 NO WORRY WORRIED 0 Movies 24 = 89% 3 = 1 1      " 12 = 67% 6 = 33% 2      " 6 = 60% 4 = 40% 3      " 4 = 67% 2 = 33% 4+    " 3 = 75% 1 = 25%

SURVEY FORM (SHOWING NUMBERS OF ANSWERS)

 SURVEY A survey on your thoughts about asteroids (large rocks from space) hitting the Earth like in the recent movies Deep Impact and Armageddon. Tick the most accurate answer to each question: (1) Are you a:                 Male? [24]          Female? [41] (2) What is your age?                 20 or less    [11]                 21 to 40      [28]                 41 to 60      [20]                 Over 60        [6] (3) What is the highest level of education you attempted?                 Primary school                   [4]                 High school                      [14]                 Year 12                            [13]                 TAFE or Apprenticeship   [16]                 University                         [18] (4) How worried are you about an asteroid hurting you or your property?                 No worry at all     [49]                 Slightly worried    [11]                 Very worried          [3]                 Terrified                 [2] (5) How often do you think about an asteroid possibly dropping on you?                 Never                                 [45]                 Occasionally                      [19]                 On average once a week    [0]                 Many times every week       [1] (6) How much per year would you he prepared to donate for research into the risk of asteroids to Australia?                     Nothing         [38]                     \$1 to \$10      [20]                     \$11 to \$50      [3]                     \$51 to \$100    [4] (7) How many different movies about asteroids or comets hitting Earth have you watched?                 0         1         2         3         4         5 or more               [27]     [18]     [10]      [6]        [           4          ]

Asteroids and Their Impact—Update

Lance Storm

(Investigator 69, 1999 November)

Investigator (#63) published some data from a survey undertaken by Bernhard Stett months ago on the influence of asteroids on a small sample of South Australian (65 people). His data was presented in tabular form in that issue.

Recently I asked Mr. Stett for his data, in order to do a statistical analysis for him, but he only had the statistics as presented in that issue (there were a couple of mistakes. The correct data is presented in Table 1).

Table I  Number of Movies Seen about Asteroids or Comets and Number of People (Not Worried / Worried).

 MOVIES NOT WORRIED WORRIED TOTALS 0 24 3 27 1 12 6 18 2 6 4 10 3 4 2 6 4+ 3 1 4 TOTAL 49 16 65

However, I was able to perform correlational analyses on these data, but they are to be taken with due consideration of the fact that the calculations are from the generalized data in Table 1. Note also that the sample size is only 65 cases.

Nevertheless, an interesting fact emerged. A significant, and extremely high, negative correlation was found between ‘movies’ and those people ‘not worried’ by the possibility of asteroid or comet threat. (For those readers who might be interested, the correlation takes the form of what is called a Pearson’s r, which was negative .91, and a correlation this high would only come up by chance about 3 times in 100. That means, the result is probably not a coincidence.)

If the result is not a coincidence, then we might be justified in saying something about those individuals who are not worried by asteroid or comet threat. It seems that non-worriers tend not to bother seeing too many movies about ‘extraterrestrial strikes’. Figure 1 shows this effect quite dramatically. Maybe the shock value of these movies works antagonistically (these films increase their worry). Note how the biggest group don’t go to see any of these movies!

Figure 1. Number of people (not worried/worried) and number of ‘extraterrestrial strike’ movies they see.

[The graph, Figure 1, is here omitted—ed.]

Of course we have to be careful about attributing causal values to one or the other variable (‘movie-going’ or ‘not being worried’). Maybe the movies don’t increase worry. Perhaps non-worriers are not easily frightened to begin with, and so they don’t bother seeing catastrophe movies about asteroids or comets because these movies are just too boring for them, especially after the first one. When you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all!

The extremely high correlation for the ‘not worried’ group actually surprised me when I saw how high it was. Such a high figure (r = -.91) is close to a perfect correlation. That means you could predict with very little margin for error (that is, you could just about guarantee), for the subsample of 49 ‘not worried’ people, that if any one of them reported that they saw four or more ‘strike’ movies you could say that they would almost definitely be in the very smallest sub-group of non-worriers.

Likewise, if any one of these ‘not worried’ people announced that they were in the smallest sub-group of ‘strike’ movie-goers, you could predict with nearly 100% accuracy that they’ve seen four or more of these movies.

What about the ‘worried’ people in the sample? Figure 1 shows that it is difficult to determine a trend in the size of sub-groups of ‘worried’ people according to how many ‘strike’ movies they’ve seen, because there was no significant correlation to be certain of a conclusion. But there was a ‘statistical’ suggestion that they avoid these movies, perhaps because they are easily worried by them. Or perhaps, they too simply lose interest in these movies after one or two of them.

Statistics can provide some very useful information about the population, if you feel confident enough to make such an inference. In other words, it’s possible that the whole population of Australians who fit into the ‘not worried’ category don’t go to see too many ‘strike’ movies because such movies don’t alleviate stress from the possibility of extraterrestrial strike, OR these movies are just too boring after a while.

Lance Storm
Department of Psychology