The Impact of Risk Message Content and Construction on Comments about Risks Embedded in 'Letters to Friends'

Document Type




Format of Original

25 p.

Publication Date



SAGE Publications

Source Publication

Journal of Language and Social Psychology

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

doi: 10.1177/0261927X92111002


In an effort to examine the ways in which content and framing components of mediated risk messages influence individuals' cognitive and affective responses, this study asked university students to read and respond to two risk stories that varied along four dimensions: level of risk expressed, severity of health symptoms experienced as a result of the risk, presence/absence of 'risk' in the headline, and vividness of story lead. Subjects, after reading the stories, were asked to write about the risks in letters to friends who were likely to encounter those risks themselves. Content analysis of the letters then isolated statements of risk likelihood and statements about level of worry. Results suggested that all four independent variables influenced those cognitive and affective dimensions of the letters, with symptom severity having the most frequent impact. The four manipulations often interacted to influence the dependent variables, suggesting that thinking in terms of main effects for such manipulations may be misleading. The authors suggest that distinctions between information content and stylistic strategies may be inappropriate.


Journal of Language and Social Psychology, Vol. 11, No. 1-2 (March 1992): 9-33. DOI.