Risk communication as protective behavior

Rebecca S Leichtfuss, Marquette University


This study applied an audience-based perspective and theory to risk communication as a form of protective behavior to determine two behavioral outcomes: (1) the protective behaviors that individuals would take when presented with a risk message about nervous system cancers, and (2) their intentions to seek additional information about nervous system cancers, which may be a form of protective behavior. The Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1988) provided the theoretical framework. The method was a laboratory experiment, which used a 2 x 2 factorial post-test only design. To begin, focus groups were conducted to identify a meaningful health risk and to determine protective behaviors. After analyzing the focus group findings and developing the stimulus material and posttest instrument, a pretest occurred to identify any necessary changes before conducting the experiment. For the experiment, students at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin randomly received and read different versions of the risk message and answered questions. The findings revealed that the manipulations of risk susceptibility and response efficacy performed as they should have. A significant difference existed between the high risk susceptibility groups and the low risk susceptibility groups; the high risk susceptibility groups perceived a greater level of risk susceptibility. In addition, the high response efficacy groups perceived a greater reduction of risk by using the bottled water than the low response efficacy groups. Furthermore, the findings indicate that all of the null hypotheses are rejected. This study also found that statistical information is meaningful to individuals, that worry does contribute to the TPB model, and that a low response efficacy leads to greater intentions to seek risk information, regardless of the level of risk susceptibility. The following conclusions were made. First, information about susceptibility, severity, and response efficacy should be included in risk messages. Second, including theoretical concepts from other models improves the measurement of the TPB variables. Third, applying the correct measurement system results in reliable measures. Fourth, worry does contribute to the TPB; however, it requires additional testing. Lastly, this study confirms the contentions that the TPB is useful for predicting protective and communication behaviors.

Recommended Citation

Leichtfuss, Rebecca S, "Risk communication as protective behavior" (2004). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3153719.