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Reactions to a health threat: dispositional threat orientations and message characteristics.

British Journal of Health Psychology 16(Pt 2):344 (2011) PMID 21489061

This study explored the interactive effects of dispositional threat orientation, type of message, and having children on reactions to a message about exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) in plastics. The study used a 2 (message: Fear Arousal or Plain)×2 (parenting status: child or no child)×2 (threat orientation: high or low) mixed factorial design. Adults (N= 200) recruited via the Internet completed measures of threat orientations, reported whether they were a parent, and read either a low or high fear-arousal message about the risks of BPA exposure. They then completed measures of reactions to the message (perceived susceptibility to BPA effects, negative emotions, and behavioural intentions to engage in protection). Depending on threat orientations, the fear arousal version of the message and parenthood had strikingly different effects, ranging from no effect (for those high in a control-based approach) to prompting change (for those low in a control-based approach) to counterproductive (for those high in an optimistic denial approach). These findings suggest that considering individual differences and their interactions with situational factors could improve both the predictive ability of threat protection theories and the delivery of messages intended to change behaviour. ©2010 The British Psychological Society.