AMBIGUITY AND ANXIETY IN THE PROCESSING OF HEALTH RISK MESSAGES
This study looks at the effects of manipulating the ambiguity of health risk messages on worry and perceived susceptibility. In view of literature that indicates robust emotion-congruent effects of anxiety on the interpretation of ambiguous information, a procedure was used to manipulate levels of state-anxiety for a treatment group. Fifty-two participants completed an experimental task involving the reading of six health risk messages on different topics. Each message was followed by a short questionnaire to assess levels of worry, risk perception and attributional confidence. In addition, the participant?s familiarity with the message as well as his/her risk profile for the particular health risk in the message was assessed to provide context for their response to the messages. The experiment followed a 2 (within-group variables, ambiguous vs. unambiguous) x 2 design (between-group variables, state-anxiety induction vs. control group). It was hypothesized that anxious readers would report higher worry than non-anxious readers, and that worry would be higher for disambiguated messages. Results indicated partial support. A significant interaction effect was found between state-anxiety induction and ambiguity, such that high state-anxious readers reported higher worry than non-anxious readers, for unambiguous messages only. It was also hypothesized that risk profile information would predict worry. This hypothesis was supported.
ambiguity; anxiety; worry; health risk messages
dissertation or thesis