To test their hypothesis, the researchers recruited 300+ American participants online, gave them a brief description of a terrorist attack, an asked them to rate (out of 10) the threat posed by the terrorist group to the US.
In the first experiment, 4 conditions were created by changing the location of the attack: Mexico (physical proximity, personal distance), Argentina (physical and personal distance), England (physical distance, personal proximity) and Canada (physical and personal proximity.)
Results were consistent with the hypotheses:
Canada = 6.11
England = 5.39
Mexico = 4.48
Argentina = 3.85
Interestingly, Republicans, women and higher incomes rated the threat higher than their counterparts, while college educated participants rated it lower.
In a second experiment, the researchers unpacked personal proximity, distinguishing racial and religious proximity by using the following countries: Albania (racial proximity, religious distance), Romania (racial and religious proximity), Zambia (racial distance, religious proximity) and Guinea (racial and religious distance).
Results showed that race was an important factor, but not religion:
Albania = 4.67
Romania = 4.63
Guinea = 4.15
Zambia = 3.51
Source: Avdan and Webb (2018)