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Impact of Group Affirmation on Environmental Message Acceptance, Risk Perception and Behavioral Intention

Title: Impact of Group Affirmation on Environmental Message Acceptance, Risk Perception and Behavioral Intention.
Name(s): Wang, Zihan, author
Arpan, Laura M., professor directing dissertation
Becker, Betsy Jane, 1956-, university representative
Cortese, Juliann, committee member
Lustria, Mia Liza A., committee member
Florida State University, degree granting institution
College of Communication & Information, degree granting college
School of Communication , degree granting department
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Doctoral Thesis
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2017
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource (172 pages)
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: Many environmental campaigns use threatening messages that feature the severity of the problem and the irreversible consequences to encourage pro-environmental behaviors. However, individuals tend to respond to threatening information defensively. Defensive message processing strategies help people distance themselves from the uncomfortable feeling without actually changing the existing attitudes and behaviors. As a result, people will likely to reject the message, deny the problem, or engage in biased processing of the message instead of changing their behaviors. Thus, how to reduce defensive processing of the message is one of the major tasks in environmental communication. Self-affirmation theory suggests that by affirming alternative sources of self-integrity, individuals will be able to reduce defensive processing of messages and evaluate risks more objectively. Past research has attempted to use individual-level values to achieve self-affirmation manipulations. This dissertation examined the self-affirmation framework at a group level by investigating whether affirming the group that an individual belongs to increases the acceptance of threatening information, risk perception and behavioral intention among college students. By using the group resources, the ultimate goal of this project is to design more practical interventions that can be used in public communication campaigns. The first study tested a new manipulation with group values incorporated into the pro-environmental public service announcements (PSA). Participants were randomly assigned to view either a PSA with group values highlighted or a control PSA. Results demonstrated that exposure to information about group values could influence participants' self-efficacy, but not other variables, such as attitudes toward the PSA, perceived message strength, risk perception, or behavioral intention. Participants' environmental concern moderated the effect of affirmation on perceived message strength. For participants with low environmental concern, affirmed participants reported a significantly higher perceived strength of the message than non-affirmed participants; but for participants with medium or high environmental concern, the group affirming message did not influence participants' perceived strength of the message compared to the control message. The second study tested a more visual-based manipulation. Participants were randomly assigned to view in-group beautiful photos, out-group beautiful photos, in-group not beautiful photos, or out-group not beautiful photos, before they were exposed to view an environmental risk message. Results demonstrated that participants who viewed in-group photos had more positive attitudes towards the message and reported greater on perceived message strength, compared with participants who viewed out-group photos. But the photos' aesthetic quality did not make a difference in the outcome variables. Instead of traditional manipulations, such as essay writing, this dissertation explored two affirmation manipulations, which require no writing from audiences but achieve the goal of affirmation. The theoretical and practical implications are discussed, as well as the suggestions for future research.
Identifier: FSU_2017SP_Wang_fsu_0071E_13735 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation submitted to the School of Communication in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Degree Awarded: Spring Semester 2017.
Date of Defense: January 23, 2017.
Keywords: environmental behaviors, group identity, public communication, risk perception, self-affirmation
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: Laura M. Arpan, Professor Directing Dissertation; Betsy Becker, University Representative; Juliann Cortese, Committee Member; Mia Liza A. Lustria, Committee Member.
Subject(s): Communication
Mass media
Human ecology -- Study and teaching
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU

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Wang, Z. (2017). Impact of Group Affirmation on Environmental Message Acceptance, Risk Perception and Behavioral Intention. Retrieved from