The reason millions of people are on the streets calling for racial justice and societal reform even at the expense of their own health is because they feel the risk is worth the reward, according to a new study from Horizon Media.
The willingness to take risks to experience positive emotions makes sense, given everything people feel they’ve lost since the lockdown started. Positive and deeply-seated emotions like freedom, human connection, spontaneity, certainty, and fun have all seen 25% declines, according to the research. In their place is increased negativity, with feelings of uncertainty, fear, frustration, doubt, and anger all up over 30%.
“Whether conscious or not, people are making mental calculations about emotional rewards in everything they do,” says Sheri Roder, Chief of WHY at Horizon Media. “The more we help marketers understand the impact of what’s guiding decisions under the surface, the better we can guide them through the next phase of communications planning.”
The study shows that people are worried that their personal liberties are being eroded combined with a lack of control over their lives. These are two of the motivating factors that propel them to join the protests. They feel a need to show up for what matters. For them, not doing so is a bigger risk than COVID-19.
The number one reason people are willing to engage in risky behavior is to fulfill essential needs (89%), like getting toilet paper or picking up a prescription, according to the study.
Horizon spoke with nearly one thousand people in its “Finger on the Pulse” online panel about their perceived risk of dozens of activities and experiences, and what makes it worth taking a risk. The resulting proprietary metric to decode people’s risk-taking propensity, titled The Emotional Beta Factor, finds overall the riskiest activities are traveling overseas (6.3), participating in a protest (5.8), or flying on an airplane. But not far behind are going to a movie theater (4.7), theme park (4.5), or trying on something in a store (3.5).