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Investigating the Role of Identities and Opinion Leadership on Risk Information Seeking and Sharing about Proposed Natural Gas Drilling in New York’s Marcellus Shale
Unformatted Document Text:  3 about a particular issue for various reasons (Case, Andrews, Johnson, & Allard, 2005). Information sharing is the exchange of messages between and among individuals for the purpose of informing and persuading (Afifi & Weiner, 2004). Researchers have grown interested in the role it plays in risk and non-risk contexts (Cho et al., 2009; Scherer & Cho, 2003). Considerable research has examined determinants and outcomes of these communication behaviors. The present research addresses three important gaps. First, most research has studied particular kinds of risk information in isolation, with the goal of predicting behavior in absolute terms (i.e., seeking or avoidance). Missing is an emphasis on how people negotiate a complex information environment in terms of seeking, avoiding, and sharing certain risk messages over others. Controversial risk issues like Marcellus Shale are a unique context for addressing this limitation - situations that feature potential, interrelated risks to individuals, communities, and the environment, and garner significant public and media attention. Second, research has largely focused on seeking in the context of personal goals and benefits such as gaining knowledge. Less attention has focused on interpersonal information exchange (sharing) and its social goals and benefits (i.e., interpersonal discussion) (Atkin, 1972). Finally, research has been largely cross- sectional and cannot provide insight into the dynamic nature of these phenomena, including how/why individuals engage in behavior over time (Shim, Kelly, & Hornik, 2006). Given the larger context of risk communication and information behavior about a dynamic risk issue, there is an opportunity to synthesize interdisciplinary perspectives to address the aforementioned gaps and elucidate theoretical and practical implications. The present research suggests that information seeking, avoidance, and sharing represent sources of meaning tied to an opinion leader identity. By integrating literature on identity theory, opinion leadership, and information seeking and sharing, it argues that this meaning:

Authors: Clarke, Chris.
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about a particular issue for various reasons (Case, Andrews, Johnson, & Allard, 2005). 
Information sharing is the exchange of messages between and among individuals for the purpose 
of informing and persuading (Afifi & Weiner, 2004). Researchers have grown interested in the 
role it plays in risk and non-risk contexts (Cho et al., 2009; Scherer & Cho, 2003). 
Considerable research has examined determinants and outcomes of these communication 
behaviors. The present research addresses three important gaps. First, most research has studied 
particular kinds of risk information in isolation, with the goal of predicting behavior in absolute 
terms (i.e., seeking or avoidance). Missing is an emphasis on how people negotiate a complex 
information environment in terms of seeking, avoiding, and sharing certain risk messages over 
others. Controversial risk issues like Marcellus Shale are a unique context for addressing this 
limitation - situations that feature potential, interrelated risks to individuals, communities, and the 
environment, and garner significant public and media attention. Second, research has largely 
focused on seeking in the context of personal goals and benefits such as gaining knowledge. Less 
attention has focused on interpersonal information exchange (sharing) and its social goals and 
benefits (i.e., interpersonal discussion) (Atkin, 1972). Finally, research has been largely cross-
sectional and cannot provide insight into the dynamic nature of these phenomena, including 
how/why individuals engage in behavior over time (Shim, Kelly, & Hornik, 2006). 
Given the larger context of risk communication and information behavior about a dynamic 
risk issue, there is an opportunity to synthesize interdisciplinary perspectives to address the 
aforementioned gaps and elucidate theoretical and practical implications. The present research 
suggests that information seeking, avoidance, and sharing represent sources of meaning tied to an 
opinion leader identity. By integrating literature on identity theory, opinion leadership, and 
information seeking and sharing, it argues that this meaning:

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