Objective: Risk perception is important for motivating health behavior (e.g., Janz & Becker, 1984), but different measures of the construct may change how important that relationship appears. In two studies, we examined associations between four measures of risk perception, health behavior intentions and possible behavioral determinants.
Methods: Participants in these studies, who were due for colorectal cancer screening, read an online message about the importance of screening to reduce the chance of cancer. We examined bivariate and multivariate associations between risk perception measures, including absolute, comparative, and feelings-of-risk, and behavioral intentions to screen, general worry, and knowledge and attitudes related to screening.
Results: Results across the two studies were consistent, with all risk perception measures being correlated with intentions and attitudes. Multivariate analyses revealed that feelings-of-risk was most predictive of all variables, with the exception of general worry, for which comparative measures were the most predictive.
Conclusions: Researchers interested in risk perception should assess feelings-of-risk along with more traditional measures. Those interested in influencing health behavior specifically should attempt to increase feelings of vulnerability rather than numerical risk.