Perceived Risk and Efficacy Beliefs as Motivators of Change

Use of the Risk Perception Attitude (RPA) Framework to Understand Health Behaviors


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Evidence of a direct correlation between risk perception and self-protective behavior is ambiguous at best. Witte's (1992, 1994) extended parallel process model (EPPM) explains many contradictory findings by pointing out the moderating role played by efficacy beliefs. Working from the EPPM, this article introduces the risk perception attitude (RPA) framework that categorizes individuals into one of four attitudinal groups: responsive (high risk, high efficacy), avoidance (high risk, low efficacy), proactive (low risk, high efficacy), and indifference (low risk, low efficacy). We conducted two studies to test our hypotheses that these groups differ in their self-protective motivation, intention to seek information, behavioral intention, knowledge acquisition, and time spent seeking information. Results, though not entirely consistent, suggest that, when risk and efficacy are made salient (Study 1), people's risk perception guides most of their subsequent actions, but in a natural context (Study 2), risk and efficacy jointly affect subsequent action.