Studying Heuristic-Systematic Processing of Risk Communication

Authors


*Address correspondence to LeeAnn Kahlor, Center for Health Systems Research and Analysis, 610 Walnut St., Room 1107, Madison, WI 53705; tel.: (608)262-5999; fax: (608)263-4523; lakahlor@chsra.wisc.edu.

Abstract

Using a model of risk information seeking and processing developed by Griffin, Dunwoody, and Neuwirth (1999), this study looks at predictors of the processing strategies that people apply to health risk information. Specifically, this article focuses on one relationship within the model—the relationship between perceived amount of information needed to deal with a risk and heuristic-systematic processing. Perceived amount of information needed refers to the gap between one's understanding of a risk and the level of understanding that one needs in order to make a decision about that risk. Building on the work of Chaiken (cf. 1980), the Griffin et al. model predicts—and finds—that the larger the gap, the more likely one will process information systematically. The study employs a novel measure of information processing in a survey setting by sending actual information to participants and then asking them how they attended to it; the researchers evaluate this strategy. Finally, the researchers discuss how these findings might help agencies and practitioners create more effective risk messages.

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