The time of telling tales: The determinants of effective risk communication

Milou Kievik

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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The aim of this thesis is to gain an in-depth understanding of self-protective behavior of citizens regarding real-life safety risks. With the increase of safety risks in our modern day society, the necessity of preparing citizens for possible risks and crises in their environment becomes more evident (Rickard et al., 2014). Insight in the conditions under which citizens are inclined to take self-protective measures is therefore needed. Since risk communication is a powerful tool used to increase self-protectiveness of citizens, this thesis also focuses on studying the way in which risk communication can be used as a means to enhance the self-protective behavior of at-risk populations. The main research question is: Which variables predict the self-protectiveness of citizens with regard to real-life safety risks and under which conditions is risk communication most effective in enhancing self-protective behavior?
Overall, the results of this thesis show that risk communication is most effective when recommended risk mitigating actions can be viewed by the public as effective in mitigating the threat. Therefore, risk communication efforts need to focus primarily on communicating risk-mitigating options that the target audience perceives as useful. Providing citizens with the opportunity to practice these behaviors as well as emphasizing their own personal responsibility, are two options that might positively influence this perceived usefulness of risk mitigating options. Also, this thesis shows that citizens that have a positive social norm regarding safe behaviors, are more willing to engage in self-protectiveness. This stresses the need to incorporate social norm in current risk communication campaigns. Finally, since results show that citizens who receive multiple similar risk messages are more willing to engage in risk mitigating behavior in the short- and long-term, risk message repetition can be used in order to increase the self-protectiveness of the population.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Giebels, Ellen, Supervisor
  • Gutteling, Jan M., Supervisor
Award date16 Nov 2017
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-4426-9
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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