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Risk and Efficacy as Motivators of Change: Test of the Risk Perception Attitude (RPA) Framework
Unformatted Document Text:  The RPA Framework 23 have shown both risk and efficacy effects (XXX, in press) and the four groups have been shown to predict health outcomes even six years after the initial classification (XXX, 2001). This divergence in findings is likely due to the salience of the risk. When the RPA framework’s predictions have been tested in the laboratory (as in the current study), individuals’ risk perception seems to act as the primary source of motivation for action. In a field setting, however, when individuals’ risk perception has been only measured, not manipulated, both risk and efficacy seem to be influential. In this experiment, the risk assessment was highly salient. When participants were told that their risk was high, it would have been difficult for them to ignore this information. If so, it appears that the salience of the risk information overwhelmed considerations of efficacy to deal with the threat. In a field setting, however, we suspect that personal risk to a disease is not often salient in people’s minds. This, of course, is speculative at best. However, it does raise an important question for future research: In order to motivate people to take preventive action, which is more influential, magnitude of the risk or the salience of the risk? The answer to this question, we believe, is relevant in real-life situations when, for example, physicians tell patients that they are at risk for a particular disease. It is quite likely that, in such a situation, the salience of the risk information will be high, which means that, based on the findings reported in this paper, efficacy beliefs to deal with the threat are likely to be less important than the need to address the source of the risk. Over time, however, the salience of the risk is likely to decay, which means that the importance of efficacy beliefs is likely to increase. The validity of this reasoning, of course, remains to be tested. Implications for Health Message Design A number of implications for message design emerge from our findings. First, we found that the proactive group (low risk, high efficacy) differed from the indifference group (low risk,

Authors: Rimal, Rajiv., Morrison, Dan. and Mitchell, Monique.
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The RPA Framework
23
have shown both risk and efficacy effects (XXX, in press) and the four groups have been shown
to predict health outcomes even six years after the initial classification (XXX, 2001).
This divergence in findings is likely due to the salience of the risk. When the RPA
framework’s predictions have been tested in the laboratory (as in the current study), individuals’
risk perception seems to act as the primary source of motivation for action. In a field setting,
however, when individuals’ risk perception has been only measured, not manipulated, both risk
and efficacy seem to be influential. In this experiment, the risk assessment was highly salient.
When participants were told that their risk was high, it would have been difficult for them to
ignore this information. If so, it appears that the salience of the risk information overwhelmed
considerations of efficacy to deal with the threat. In a field setting, however, we suspect that
personal risk to a disease is not often salient in people’s minds. This, of course, is speculative at
best. However, it does raise an important question for future research: In order to motivate
people to take preventive action, which is more influential, magnitude of the risk or the salience
of the risk? The answer to this question, we believe, is relevant in real-life situations when, for
example, physicians tell patients that they are at risk for a particular disease. It is quite likely
that, in such a situation, the salience of the risk information will be high, which means that,
based on the findings reported in this paper, efficacy beliefs to deal with the threat are likely to
be less important than the need to address the source of the risk. Over time, however, the
salience of the risk is likely to decay, which means that the importance of efficacy beliefs is
likely to increase. The validity of this reasoning, of course, remains to be tested.
Implications for Health Message Design
A number of implications for message design emerge from our findings. First, we found
that the proactive group (low risk, high efficacy) differed from the indifference group (low risk,


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