Publication Details

Boehmert, C., Wiedemann, P. & Croft, R. (2016). Improving precautionary communication in the EMF field? Effects of making messages consistent and explaining the effectiveness of precautions. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13 (10), 1-18.


Many radiation health agencies communicate precautionary measures regarding the use of mobile communication devices, e.g. the use of a headset while talking on the phone. These precautionary messages have, however, been shown to unintentionally increase risk perceptions about radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMFs). The current study tested two potential ways of amending precautionary messages in order to minimise this unintentional effect. Firstly, the messages¿ potential to be perceived as inconsistent and thereby raise suspicions was addressed; secondly, the effectiveness of the precautions was explained. An experimental design was applied in which a quota sample of 1717 Australian residents was randomly assigned to one of six message conditions. Three different risk perception measures served as dependent variables, two of them are conditional measures. The original effect of precautionary messages to amplify risk perceptions could not be replicated. Furthermore, amending precautionary messages in favour of more consistency had no effect, while explaining the effectiveness of the precautions increased conditional risk perception under the condition that no precautions are taken. This was contrary to our assumptions. We infer from these results that changing precautionary messages in terms of consistency and effectiveness in order to reduce risk perception is hardly possible. The use of conditional risk perception measures seems fruitful for studies looking at the effects of precautionary or protective messages, given that previous studies have only investigated effects on unconditional risk perception. However, the present results should not be over-interpreted as the measures¿ validity in the EMF context still needs further investigation.

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