Precision of Information, Sensational Information, and Self-Efficacy Information as Message-Level Variables Affecting Risk Perceptions


Michael Field Dahlstrom, 215 Hamilton Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50010, USA;


Studies that investigate how the mass media cover risk issues often assume that certain characteristics of content are related to specific risk perceptions and behavioral intentions. However, these relationships have seldom been empirically assessed. This study tests the influence of three message-level media variables—risk precision information, sensational information, and self-efficacy information—on perceptions of risk, individual worry, and behavioral intentions toward a pervasive health risk. Results suggest that more precise risk information leads to increased risk perceptions and that the effect of sensational information is moderated by risk precision information. Greater self-efficacy information is associated with greater intention to change behavior, but none of the variables influence individual worry. The results provide a quantitative understanding of how specific characteristics of informational media content can influence individuals’ responses to health threats of a global and uncertain nature.