kimberley crofts

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an information and communication designer living in London

Message framing and risk

‘Creating Fear in a Risky World: Generating Effective Health Risk Messages’ by Michael T. Stephenson & Kim Witte. In Rice, DE, & Aktin, CK (Eds.), Public communication campaigns (3 ed.). (pp. 22-48). London: Sage.

Risk is defined as the likelihood of a specific event occurring multiplied by the magnitude of consequences associated with that event (Douglas, 1985)… Rothman, Klein, and Weinstein found that study participants overestimated their vulnerability to hazards that have lower probabilities of occurring, such as dying from chronic liver disease, dying from colon canceer, or dying by committing suicide. In contrast, participants underestimated their risk to hazards that occur more frequently, including contracting a sexually transmitted disease, becoming pregnant, or getting a divorce. p89

Gain-framed messages emphasize the advantages or benefits of certain behaviors or the likelihood that one would gain by adopting them. In contrast, loss-framed messages highlight the disadvantages or costs of certain behaviors or the odds that individuals will lose or not be successful in taking certain actions. Framing is generally based on the invariance postulate of Kahneman and Tversky’s (1979; Tversky & Kahneman, 1981) prospect theory, which suggests that people are risk averse when presented choices involving gains and risk seeking when presented choices involving losses, even though the gain and loss options are different representations of the same choice (Rothman & Salovey, 1997, p. 7). P92

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