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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 3 medical history, and family background. Thus, risk and efficacy were manipulated by informing participants that they were either at high risk or low risk for skin cancer based on personal information they had provided and that they had either high efficacy or low efficacy for dealing with the perceived risk. In Study 2, researchers asked participants their risk to skin cancer and their efficacy to take preventive action. Participants were then categorized into the four RPA groups based on their responses. Results were mixed. In Study 1, when risk and efficacy were manipulated in a laboratory, those in the avoidance group (high risk, low efficacy) displayed the most healthy behaviors, but this was not the case in Study 2, when risk and efficacy were measured in a telephone survey. Furthermore, in Study 1, despite greater information-seeking activities, the avoidance (high risk, low efficacy) group did not gain more knowledge relative to the other three groups. Amount of knowledge gained per unit time spent reviewing relevant health information was lower for the avoidance group, compared to the other three groups. Thus, those in the avoidance group sought more information but they were less able to assimilate that information. In order to explain these unanticipated findings, the researchers proposed the incredulity hypothesis: that participants in the avoidance group did not believe the high risk status attributed to them (because they already knew their true risk and therefore were not fooled by the manipulation), and hence they resolved to disconfirm their purported high risk status by engaging in risk-ameliorating behaviors. This explanation seems plausible, given most college students (the participants in the study) already have high prior knowledge about skin cancer (the health domain under investigation) and risks associated with it. It is possible the increased information seeking behavior induced by the message (that they were at high risk) can be attributed to participants’ unwillingness to believe the risk manipulation. In order to eliminate

Authors: Rimal, Rajiv., Morrison, Dan. and Mitchell, Monique.
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The RPA Framework
3
medical history, and family background. Thus, risk and efficacy were manipulated by informing
participants that they were either at high risk or low risk for skin cancer based on personal
information they had provided and that they had either high efficacy or low efficacy for dealing
with the perceived risk. In Study 2, researchers asked participants their risk to skin cancer and
their efficacy to take preventive action. Participants were then categorized into the four RPA
groups based on their responses.
Results were mixed. In Study 1, when risk and efficacy were manipulated in a
laboratory, those in the avoidance group (high risk, low efficacy) displayed the most healthy
behaviors, but this was not the case in Study 2, when risk and efficacy were measured in a
telephone survey. Furthermore, in Study 1, despite greater information-seeking activities, the
avoidance (high risk, low efficacy) group did not gain more knowledge relative to the other three
groups. Amount of knowledge gained per unit time spent reviewing relevant health information
was lower for the avoidance group, compared to the other three groups. Thus, those in the
avoidance group sought more information but they were less able to assimilate that information.
In order to explain these unanticipated findings, the researchers proposed the incredulity
hypothesis: that participants in the avoidance group did not believe the high risk status attributed
to them (because they already knew their true risk and therefore were not fooled by the
manipulation), and hence they resolved to disconfirm their purported high risk status by
engaging in risk-ameliorating behaviors. This explanation seems plausible, given most college
students (the participants in the study) already have high prior knowledge about skin cancer (the
health domain under investigation) and risks associated with it. It is possible the increased
information seeking behavior induced by the message (that they were at high risk) can be
attributed to participants’ unwillingness to believe the risk manipulation. In order to eliminate


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