The influence of message and hazard characteristics on intended behavior in three weather and climate scenarios

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015: 11:00 AM
226AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Kathleen Sherman-Morris, Mississippi State Univ., Mississippi State, MS; and M. Warkentin, L. Strawderman, K. S. McNeal, P. Menard, and D. Carruth

An online survey consisting of three weather or climate hazard scenarios was developed and administered to 330 participants in a Qualtrics survey panel. The three scenarios were created to measure the influence of message and hazard characteristics on intention to engage in either a precautionary or risky behavior. Using Protection Motivation Theory as a framework, scenarios were designed to test the influence of variables such as threat severity, source credibility, response cost, and time to impact.

Participants first responded to a climate change scenario in which three variables were randomly assigned; high vs. low source credibility, high vs. low cost and near vs. long term impacts. In this scenario, “Sandy” receives information about climate change leading to more severe winter weather events that could impact her business now, or by the time her children inherit it. Participants are told that Sandy found this information on either an online blog post or on a science website. Mitigation behaviors varied in the scenarios are maintaining tractors or buying a more fuel efficient tractor.

The second scenario focuses on a severe weather scenario in which “Joe” must decide whether to cancel an event. Participants are presented the event as being either 2 hours or 10 hours from the time Joe received a weather forecast. The forecast called for either thunderstorms or thunderstorms with damaging winds and hail and was from either an amateur weather blog or the National Weather Service website.

The final scenario describes “Mike,” who must decide whether to leave home to drive to either work or dinner while his area is under a winter weather warning. The message Mike receives contains information about the recommended action (either exercise caution or do not drive) and is presented as being for the listening area or for the city he lives near.

All scenarios were accompanied by questions regarding if the person in the scenario should engage in the behavior suggested, what the survey participant would do if they were the person in the scenario, and what negative social or personal consequences they would perceive if the person in the scenario engaged in the proposed behavior.

Preliminary results indicated that source credibility and threat severity both negatively influenced participant's opinions of whether Joe should hold the event. The time at which he had received the forecast had no significant influence. Whether participants thought he would feel uneasy, anxious or tension in canceling the event was also positively related to the opinion he should hold the event. In the climate change scenario, cost was the only significant factor in whether participants thought Sandy should take action to mitigate against the effects of climate change. Regarding the winter weather warning scenario, participants were more likely to say Mike should drive if he was leaving for work than for dinner. A clear message that he was advised not to drive (as opposed to exercise caution) was also related to greater opinion that he should not drive. Message location did not lead to any significant differences.