Illusion of Risk – Powder

Sometimes, getting someone to understand the concept of risk can be a daunting task. This exercise may provide an easy to use mildly shocking demonstration

Needed Items


  • In 1 cup add 2 tsp of Water Gel Powder. The second cup will remain empty for now

  • Place the pitcher of water and both cups on a table, the empty cup stacked inside the cup with the powder in it.


  • After discussing with your students the differences in risk perception by drivers, ask for a volunteer.

  • Have the volunteer sit in a chair facing the class and place the towel over the volunteer’s shoulders (just for safety…LOL)

  • To visually show the differences in risk, take the empty red cup and separate it from the cup with the powder. Hold up both cups over the volunteer’s head and ask the class, “Is there any difference in risk here?”

    • The class should respond “no difference.”

  • Then hold the empty cup close to the volunteers head and  pour water from the pitcher into the empty cup so that it is half about full. Hold both cups over the head of the volunteer again and ask, “Is there a difference in the risk now?”

    • The class should say “yes.” The risk is higher because of the water in the one cup

  • While holding both cups over the head of the volunteer, pour about half of the water in the cup containing the gel powder. Again, ask “What is the level of risk now?”

    • Some may say it is even because each cup has the same amount of water in it.

  • After gaining the input from the class, turn over the cup containing the gel powder and water mixture as if you were dumping on the head of the volunteer. When nothing comes out, explain to the class that not everyone perceives risk in the same way. Don’t be fooled by others perceptions of risk, you need to understand the actual risk involved in any driving situation. “It may just surprise you.”