Natural Hazards and Motivation for Mitigation Behavior: People Cannot Predict the Affect Evoked by a Severe Flood


*Address correspondence to Michael Siegrist, ETH Zurich, Institute for Environmental Decisions (IED), Consumer Behavior, Universitätsstrasse 22, Zurich, Switzerland;


Past research indicates that personal flood experience is an important factor in motivating mitigation behavior. It is not fully clear, however, why such experience is so important. This study tested the hypothesis that people without flooding experience underestimate the negative affect evoked by such an event. People who were affected by a severe recent flood disaster were compared with people who were not affected, but who also lived in flood-prone areas. Face-to-face interviews with open and closed questions were conducted (n= 201). Results suggest that people without flood experience envisaged the consequences of a flood differently from people who had actually experienced severe losses due to a flood. People who were not affected strongly underestimated the negative affect associated with a flood. Based on the results, it can be concluded that risk communication must not focus solely on technical aspects; in order to trigger motivation for mitigation behavior, successful communication must also help people to envisage the negative emotional consequences of natural disasters.