Protection Motivation and Risk Communication
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The purpose of this study was to explore the utility of protection motivation theory (PMT) in the context of mass media reports about a hazard. Content elements of a hazard's severity, likelihood of occurring, and the effectiveness of preventive actions were systematically varied in a news story about a fabricated risk: exposure to fluorescent lighting lowering academic performance. Results of this experiment (N = 206) suggest that providing information about the severity of a hazard's consequences produces greater information seeking. In addition, information about levels of risk, severity, and efficacy combined jointly to produce greater rates of willingness to take actions designed to avoid the hazard. Results are seen as providing general support for PMT and are discussed within the broader framework of information seeking and heuristic and systematic information processing.