Individual Differences in Warning Perception: The Role of Risk-Taking Propensity
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Warnings are intended to improve safety (decreasing injury, illness and loss) by communicating the presence and nature of a potential hazard and encouraging behaviour that will minimise or avoid a negative outcome. Warnings can be seen as representations of risk, therefore it is likely that an individual’s attitude towards risk, their risk-taking propensity, may affect the way they perceive warnings. Establishing this relationship has important practical implications. If high risk-taking propensity can predict non-compliance, then attempts may be made to increase compliance within high risk-takers by tailoring warnings to such individuals. This thesis aims to explore empirically the relationship between measures of risk-taking propensity and warnings, with potential application to the prevention of hazardous behaviours. Study One investigated the potential relationship between risk-taking propensity and warning perception using an exploratory approach. The results confirmed that various measures of risk-taking propensity predicted warning perceptions, in particular on intentions to comply with the warnings. Studies Two and Three revealed that the relationship between risk-taking and warning perception is domain specific to a certain extent and that it is stronger when contextual information about a hazard is provided. Study Four explored potential underlying mechanisms and revealed that while the mental simulation of positive outcomes of non-compliance was found to be influential, anticipated regret significantly mediated the relationship between risk-taking propensity and intended compliance. Study Five attempted to minimise the discrepancy between high and low risk-takers through warning design manipulation. Despite a strong effect of sensation seeking on intended compliance the warning manipulations implemented had no effect on warning perceptions. This thesis offers a significant contribution to the literature, by establishing empirically the effect of risk propensity on warnings perception and by providing insight into the theoretical underpinnings of this relationship.
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