An Emotion-Based Model of Risk Perception and Stigma Susceptibility: Cognitive Appraisals of Emotion, Affective Reactivity, Worldviews, and Risk Perceptions in the Generation of Technological Stigma


  • Winner of the 2003 Best Paper competition.

* Address correspondence to Ellen M. Peters, Decision Research, 1201 Oak st., Ste. 200, Eugene, OR 97401, USA;


A study (N= 198) was conducted to examine hypotheses derived from an emotion-based model of stigma responses to radiation sources. A model of stigma susceptibility is proposed in which affective reactions and cognitive worldviews activate predispositions to appraise and experience events in systematic ways that result in the generation of negative emotion, risk perceptions, and stigma responses. Results of structural equation modeling supported the hypotheses. Radiation sources that scored higher on a measure of stigma were included in the analyses (i.e., nuclear power plants, radioactive waste from nuclear power plants, radiation from nuclear weapons testing). Individual differences in negative reactivity and worldviews were associated with the strength of emotional appraisals that were associated, in turn, with negative emotion toward stigmatized radiation sources. As hypothesized, the model fit better with perceived risk as a function of negative emotion rather than vice versa. Finally, a measure of stigma was associated with negative emotion and, to a lesser extent, with risk perceptions. Risk communication about stigmatized objects may benefit from a more complete understanding of how affective and emotional reactions are constructed and the routes through which they affect responses and behaviors.