An experimental inquiry into the effects of the amount of information, attributed source of the information and situational context on perceived risk in the selection of an attorney

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


This dissertation examines the relationship between the situational context of a decision, the amount of information, attributed source of the information and perceived risk in a professional service setting. Perceived risk theory, the dichotomy of goods and services, and factors unique to professional services are discussed relevant to consumer choice. Hypotheses stemming from the literature are offered relating to the perception of performance and social risk, and intent to retain to the amount of information, the attributed source of the information and situational context of the choice.

The research was conducted in three phases. Phase one consisted of the development and testing of risk situations and also the construction of the information treatments. Phase two consisted of a pretest to measure the reliability of the test instrument used in phase three. The third phase consisted of two 2 x 2 x 2 factorial design experiments. One experiment used performance risk situation as an independent variable, the other a social risk situation. Both situations were at two levels, high and low risk. The remaining independent variables in both experiments were: the amount of information, at two levels, high and low; and attributed source of the information, either personal sources or advertising. Multiple dependent variables measured three constructs; perceived performance risk; perceived social risk; and intent to retain. Reliability was assessed using (1) correlation analysis; (2) Cronbach's alpha; and (3) factor analysis. Statistical techniques used to analyze the data were (1) multivariate analysis of variance; (2) univariate analysis of variance; and (3) multivariate tests of simple effects.

In general, the data analysis resulted in mixed support for the hypothesized effects. While partial support was gained for the effect of information source and amount of information on perceived risk involved in a professional service selection, it also indicated that the effects may be situation specific; and in most cases the effects are not independent but rather interact.

Results of the dissertation are discussed with respect to major findings and significance to the area of professional service marketing. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of the limitations of the study areas for future research.