Research suggests that people base their judgments of product hazardousness on perceptions of the severity of potential injury. However, other research suggests that people base their risk perceptions on the likelihood of being injured. Four studies are presented that attempt to reconcile these findings. Studies 1 and 2 investigated whether the discrepancy could be attributed to the particular item lists used in the respective research. Study1 showed that injury severity was the foremost predictor of perceived hazard in one list, but that injury likelihood was the best predictor in the other list. The two lists differed significantly on all the rating dimensions, suggesting that the items in the lists are at least partly responsible for the conflicting findings. Study 2, using a different set of items, confirmed that injury severity is the foremost predictor of hazard perceptions for consumer products. The last two studies examined the effects of injury likelihood and severity information in warnings on perceived product hazard and behavioral compliance. In Study 3, participants evaluated a set of product labels under the guise of a consumer marketing study in which the conveyed levels of injury severity and likelihood were incidentally manipulated. The results showed high severity warnings produced higher hazard ratings than low severity warnings. Injury likelihood produced no effect. Study 4 showed that a higher severity warning produced greater behavioral compliance than a low severity warning, but only for low injury likelihoods. Overall, this research: (a) provides an explanation for the conflicting results in hazard and risk perception research; and (b) demonstrates that injury severity is the primary determinant of lay persons' hazard perceptions for consumer products. The findings suggest that safety communications might have greater impact if they focused on injury severity, rather than (or to a lesser extent) the likelihood of getting hurt.

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  • Corporate Authors:

    Elsevier Science, Incorporated

    660 White Plains Road
    Tarrytown, NY  United States  10591-5153
  • Authors:
    • Wogalter, M S
    • Young, S L
    • Brelsford, J W
    • Barlow, T
  • Publication Date: 1999


  • English

Media Info

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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00798237
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Report/Paper Numbers: HS-042 900
  • Files: HSL, TRIS, USDOT
  • Created Date: Sep 12 2000 12:00AM