27 May 2008

Peter Harris and collaborators awarded 3 year grant for risk processing investigation

Peter Harris and his collaborator Dale Griffin, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada (UBC), have been awarded a 3 year grant ($140,000 CAD) by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to investigate consumer processing of risk information. They have also received funding for a 2-year project on communicating health risks and benefits from UBC's Hampton Fund.

Peter and his collaborator Rob Ruiter, of the University of Maastricht (UM) in the Netherlands, have been awarded 4 year funding to investigate the attentional and behavioural effects of threatening health messages. Brief abstracts of both projects are below.

Consumer Processing of risk-related information (extract from project summary):
The proposed research offers a three-phase approach to understanding the role of defensive processing and vigilant processing in consumers' reaction to health risk warnings. In the first phase of the research, we will investigate how consumers respond to actual health risk warnings by tracing evidence of defensive and vigilant processing. In the second phase, we will investigate how manipulations of self-affirmation and message elaboration affect defensive and hyper-vigilant processing. Finally, in the third phase, we will investigate how to integrate self-affirmation and elaboration into the warning label itself. This program of research will be valuable for marketing and psychological theory, for public policy formulation, and for social and commercial marketers seeking tools by which they can communicate personally threatening information without rejection by consumers.

The attentional and behavioural effects of threatening health-risk messages: The role of self-affirmation
Self-affirmation (a technique in which people reflect upon their cherished values or attributes) has been shown to increase message acceptance. Although self-affirmation has applied potential, more basic research is needed to assess its scope in health education practice. The proposal combines expertise at Maastricht (Dr. Ruiter) and Sheffield (Dr. Harris) and is designed to advance our theoretical understanding of how self-affirmation works and our ability to assess its applied potential in health communication.