The goal of this research was to examine the effectiveness of persuasive language in the protective action recommendation of an emergency warning, which instructs people how to prepare and stay safe. Study 1 was a pilot study, which suggested that participants were able to make distinctions between hurricane categories. In study 2, the presence of fear language and second-person personal pronouns (i.e., "you") in a recommendation was manipulated. Overall, fear language was more influential than a pronoun on risk perceptions. To understand how context influences risk perceptions, participants in study 3 made decisions after each piece of information received. The severity of the hurricane increased, decreased, or stayed the same before decision point 2 and a recommendation containing fear or neutral language was presented before decision point 3. Those who read the fear message were more likely to be in the danger control process than those in the neutral language condition, which suggested that the fear message emphasized threat but did not diminish participants' perception of efficacy. Behavioral compliance with the warning was high in all conditions. In terms of change in perceived threat from decision point 2 to 3, participants in the decrease condition who read the fear appeal had the largest increase in perceived threat. In contrast, the hurricane increasing in intensity may be fear provoking enough that a fear appeal does not enhance risk perceptions. When examining individual differences, high Need for Cognition women had the largest increase in perceived message persuasiveness in the decrease and increase conditions. Phrasing guidelines for emergency management are discussed, along with the theoretical contributions of using social psychological methodology to examine emergency warnings. While individual differences are important predictors of warning interpretation, future research needs to reconcile the conundrum of emergency management's current limitations regarding individualized warnings.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Sciences
Psychology; Human Factors Cognitive Psychology
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Campus-only Access)
Whitmer, Daphne, "Threatening Instructions During a Hurricane Influence Risk Perceptions: The Case of Fear Appeals and Changing Hurricane Projections" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 6435.