The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Helping individuals to understand synergistic risks: an assessment of message contents depicting mechanistic and probabilistic concepts

Record type: Article

Accumulating evidence shows that certain hazard combinations interact to present synergistic risks. However, little is known about the most effective ways of helping individuals to understand this complex risk concept. More specifically, there is an absence of empirical research that has assessed the relative efficacy of messages that explain either the causal mechanism and/or the probabilistic components of synergistic risks. In an experiment designed to address this issue, we presented participants with messages concerning the synergistic risk of developing esophageal cancer for individuals who consume both tobacco and alcohol. Relative to a control group, we compared the extent to which messages featuring content detailing the underlying biological mechanism, the probabilistic risk, or both improved understanding of the synergistic risk. Our results showed that messages containing details of both the mechanism and probabilistic information were most effective at enabling individuals to understand that the alcohol-tobacco combination presents a synergistic risk. In addition, large improvements in the accuracy of cancer frequency estimates were observed amongst individuals who received probabilistic information, and the highest relative increase in professed willingness to adopt precautionary behaviors was observed amongst individuals who received the mechanism information only. Importantly, these findings could be utilized in the development of a general model for the communication of synergistic risks. Furthermore, in contrast to previous findings, our study demonstrates that risk messages can be both effective and efficient in helping individuals to acquire a greater understanding of synergistic risks. Acquiring such knowledge could lead to significant improvements in risk-related decisions concerning combined hazards.

Full text not available from this repository.

Citation

Dawson, Ian G.J., Johnson, J.E.V. and Luke, M.A. (2013) Helping individuals to understand synergistic risks: an assessment of message contents depicting mechanistic and probabilistic concepts Risk Analysis, 33, (5), pp. 851-865. (doi:10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01878.x). (PMID:22882124).

More information

e-pub ahead of print date: 8 August 2012
Published date: May 2013
Keywords: biological mechanism, numeracy, probability, risk communication, synergistic risk
Organisations: Centre of Excellence for International Banking, Finance & Accounting

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 340953
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/340953
ISSN: 0272-4332
PURE UUID: 5dcc8bd5-c25f-4a87-8ccd-79e137832326

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 09 Jul 2012 10:25
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 05:40

Export record

Altmetrics


Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton: eprints@soton.ac.uk

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/cgi/oai2

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.

×