Toward deeper and broader understanding of social judgments in risk communication: The role of attitude strength and perceived standing
This dissertation advances knowledge on social judgments in risk communication by revealing the strength-related attributes of trust and exploring the concept of perceived standing using survey findings from a local environmental conflict context. Trust requires strength to endure bad news cycles and positively influence people's thinking and behavior. Research in risk communication, however, has rarely examined how to attain these outcomes indicative of the strength of trust. In Chapters 2 through 4, I challenge influential theories in risk communication which assume that trust is an inherently simple heuristics-based judgment to argue that trust judgments can vary in the level of cognitive effort and the amount of supporting knowledge. After discussing how the localness of the environmental issue I selected for this research helps foster strong forms of trust, I present findings from a two-wave survey revealing the strength-related attributes of trust. Hypothesis tests yielded strong evidence showing that engagement in communication processes relevant to the issue (i.e., direct communication with risk managers, use of local news media, interpersonal discussion about the issue) helped build objective knowledge, perceived knowledge, elaboration, and certainty in trust toward the judgment targets. In addition, these strength-related attributes significantly predicted the strength-defining consequences of trust (i.e., persistence, resistance, impact on information processing and behavioral intentions), accounting for unique variance beyond what was explained by trust alone. Focusing on a different type of social judgment, Chapter 5 discusses how people judge others’ right to have representation in and influence on the focal issue, judgments which I refer to as perceived standing. This chapter explores the possible attitudinal and motivational antecedents driving these judgments. In the survey, participants expressed perceptions about the standing of members from other relatively distant communities. Reflecting peoples’ motivation to have more allies and fewer opponents in the issue, attitudes toward the project and beliefs about the project’s risks and benefits predicted perceived standing. However, perceived similarity with the targets, place attachment, and perceptions of oneself being underrepresented in the issue also affected perceived standing, accounting for unique variance. The final Chapter 6 discusses implications of these findings and directions for future research.
attitude strength; perceived standing; risk communication; risk management; trust; Natural resource management; Social psychology; Communication
McComas, Katherine Anne
Stedman, Richard Clark; Lewenstein, Bruce Voss; Schuldt, Jonathon Paul
Ph. D., Communication
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis