An examination of the determinants of perceived risk and acceptability of hazardous products and activities
Oglethorpe, Janet E.
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This research sought to better understand the antecedents of consumers' perceptions of risk (health and safety risks specifically), and the relationship between the perceived risk of an option, and judgments about the acceptability of that option. The specific objective of the proposed research was to build a model of risk perception and risky option acceptability for hazardous products and activities (i.e., that present downside risks to a consumer's health and safety), using several variables that have been postulated to be important, using a multiple linear regression model building approach. One goal was to integrate the study of perceived risk in consumer behavior with various concepts and models of risk perception and risk acceptability from the behavioral decision sciences, an integration suggested previously by Jacoby (1981). Emphasis was placed on conceptual and methodological issues that confront researchers from either domain that need to be resolved if risk is to occupy a central place in marketing theory. Two of the variables included in the study of the determinants of perceived risk comprise the conceptual definition of perceived risk used in this research: probability of a negative outcome, and severity of a negative outcome. Specifically, both were hypothesized to be positively correlated with perceptions of risk. Six additional variables were also examined as determinants of perceived risk. Given the definition of risk used in this research, these variables relate to either or both of the constructs probability and severity, and implicitly were also hypothesized to be significant determinants of risk perception. The variable examined that relates to probability exclusively was controllability. Specifically, a negative relationship was hypothesized between the perceived risk of a product and the controllability of the negative outcome associated with that product. Variables which relate to severity exclusively include reversibility, dreadedness, and immediacy. Specifically, judgments of negative consequences as immediate, dreaded, and irreversible were hypothesized to be positively correlated with perceptions of risk. Finally, two variables that relate to both probability and severity included availability and catastrophic potential. Specifically, there should be a positive relationship between the perceived risk of a product and the availability and catastrophic potential of the negative outcome associated with that product. All hypotheses with the exception of those relating to immediacy were supported; the hypotheses relating confidence to acceptability was only partially supported. All variables with the exception of immediacy were concluded to belong in a comprehensive model of perceived risk and option acceptability.
- Doctoral Dissertations