Protection Motivation Theory An Organizing Framework

Protection Motivation Theory (PMT, see Fig. 10.1) provides a valuable perspective for addressing such questions. PMT was created as a model of disease prevention and health promotion (Floyd et al. 2000; Rogers 1975; Rogers and Prentice-Dunn 1997). The author selected PMT from among other possible models (i.e., the Health Belief Model, Rosenstock 1974; Theory of Reasoned/Planned Behaviour, Ajzen 1991) because its variables and hypothesized relationships possess the greatest potential to extend our understanding of adaptation to weather and climate. Many of the

Information Sources

Cognitive Mediating Processes

Adaptation Modes

Information Sources

Cognitive Mediating Processes

Adaptation Modes

Protection Motivation Theory
Fig. 10.1 Protection motivation theory applied to adaptation to weather and climate changes (Adapted from: Floyd, Prentice-Dunn and Rogers, 2000. Used with Permission)

variables pertaining to sources of information, cognition, and decision-making lend themselves well to organizing the research in the natural hazards and societal impacts literature. In addition to health-related behaviours, PMT is also well-suited to model adaptive behaviour for weather and climate events (Grothmann and Patt 2005; Grothmann and Reusswig 2006; Prentice-Dunn, personal communication). Two meta-analyses of studies that employed PMT have been largely supportive of the model (Floyd et al. 2000; Milne et al. 2000). In addition, PMT has been evaluated favorably alongside other health behaviour models (Weinstein 1993).

The PMT model comprises three main components: 1. information sources, 2. cognitive mediating processes, and 3. adaptation modes (see Fig. 10.1). Information sources reside within the person's environment and include directly-sensed inputs along with communications from various forms of electronic and broadcast media. Information may also exist within the person as memories of prior-experienced events (intrapersonal), gathered through verbal interactions and relationships with others, or through nonverbal communications (e.g., observing others' behaviour).

These sources inform the cognitive mediating processes, which in PMT, involve parallel paths that eventuate in threat appraisals (top of Fig. 10.1) and adjustment and coping appraisals. Intrinsic rewards (e.g., thrill of watching severe weather) and extrinsic rewards (e.g., encouragement by friends) increase the likelihood that risky and maladaptive responses will occur (e.g. not having sufficient protection from lightning). The severity of the weather or climate changes along with one's perceived vulnerabilities to these conditions are balanced against the rewards; the difference represents the appraisal of the threat posed by the behavioural response. Regarding the lower track of Fig. 10.1, the likelihood of an adaptive response is increased to the extent that the person knows about appropriate adaptive behaviours to perform for a particular weather or climate event (response efficacy) and believes that he or she personally can perform the behaviours (self-efficacy). The perceived cost(s) in performing the behaviour (response costs) diminishes the likelihood of an adaptive response. Response and personal efficacy are balanced against the response cost to create an appraisal for adaptive, adjustment, or coping responses.

The appraisals of threat and of adjustment or coping along with the emotion of fear which attend the evaluation of the weather severity and one's perceived vulnerabilities give rise to protection motivation. Protection motivation, in turn, leads to making responses that may be adaptive or maladaptive. These responses may be one-time events or may be repeated as frequently as needed.

The following sections examine a variety of psychological variables and biases that can affect adaptive behaviour. The PMT model provides a valuable framework for understanding these variables and for reviewing the different biases that can affect adaptation (Nicholls 1999). The first section below discusses the sources of information that people use. Next, the discussion of the cognitive mediating processes will examine how maladaptive and adaptive response alternatives are appraised and also will emphasize the variety of psychological biases people may exhibit in evaluating response alternatives, some of which have been identified previously in the atmospheric science literature (e.g., Nicholls 1999). Finally, the content and form of responses will be discussed briefly.

10.2.1 Information Sources Information from the Environment

People use a wide variety of information sources and differ from each other in how much they sense and observe weather information directly (Dow and Cutter 2000; Stewart 2007; Whyte 1985). Several characteristics of weather and climate affect how people may notice and gain information about atmospheric events (Evans and Cohen 1987). First, people will notice atmospheric events if their nature and/or magnitude makes them perceptually salient (Stokols 1979). Second, the valence of the event, as either primarily positive or negative, provides basic information regarding the course of adaptive behaviour that should be pursued (Campbell 1983). Third, the degree of predictability of the event relates to both the nature of the event and the amount of time that may be available for primary adaptation activities to occur. Fourth, the duration and periodicity of the weather event can be used to inform the length and frequency of adaptations that may be necessary. Fifth, the degree of controllability associated with an event is quite significant for adaptation to the extent that relatively minor weather events whose effects can be controlled or easily accommodated are not as likely to promote the consumption and use of information that is associated with uncontrollable events. Sixth, different climate events can possess unique and specific kinds of information that can be used to cue the types of adaptation that might be required (Evans and Cohen 1987).

Weather or climate events will become psychologically significant for people to the extent that these characteristics singly, or in combination, require cognitive or emotional resources (Dow and Cutter 1998). In this regard, climate events are individually and socially construed and this affects the information that people extract from them and their uses of this information (Call 2005; Kelly 1955; Stehr and von Storch 1995). For instance, the same tropical storm that possesses a negative valence for weary coastal residents may bring welcomed relief from drought in inland farming regions. In addition, an existing climate regime such as a drought may make a tropical storm event perceptually salient for people in need of rain. The degree of controllability and types of adaptation needed may also differ among people, groups, and organizations as a function of their experiences in adapting to similar events in the past and the degree to which their experiences lead them to trust in the natural variability of the climate (Stehr 1997).

The duration and periodicity of various weather and climate events can affect the extent to which people remember the occurrence, impacts, and adaptations to prior events. Climatological events that occur gradually might span several generations such that the changed climate regime escapes notice (Glanz 2003). Farhar-Pilgrim (1985) reported results from the Metropolitan Meteorological Experiment in which a 30% increase in summer precipitation over a 30-year period went unnoticed by the population. Conversely, Moser and Dilling (2007) suggested that extreme weather events that are circumscribed in time such as tornadoes, floods, severe storms, and in the case of hurricanes, named, were more likely to be perceptually salient and to gain the notice of a larger segment of the population than events occurring over longer timeframes such as drought. Information from Intra- and Interpersonal Sources

Just as events may possess perceptual salience, people exhibit varying degrees of motivational salience for weather and climate events (Stewart 2007). Weather salience refers to the degree of psychological importance that people attach to weather. People possessing a greater degree of weather salience reported more frequent sensing and observing of the atmosphere directly, more frequent reliance upon various forms of electronic media for weather information, and greater effects of weather upon their mood (Stewart 2007). In this way, weather-salient individuals are a source of their own (intra-personal) weather and climate information. Given the weather and climate information that is currently available, Dow and Cutter (1998) have observed that people increasingly obtain their own information rather than rely upon authorities (i.e., emergency managers). People also use their memories of past weather events that they have experienced as a guide for what to expect and how to cope with forecasted weather events and climate regimes (Strauss and Orlove 2003).

Interpersonal communications encompass a variety of sources and modalities through which people may acquire knowledge about weather and climate (Moser and Dilling 2007). Formal sources for current weather and climate information include governmental meteorological agencies along with companies that provide specialised products for public and private interests. This information may be conveyed through broadcast and other electronic modes. These formal sources also may provide programming to persuade consumers to prepare for and adapt to various conditions.

There are converging results from different researchers that people are more likely to gather and to trust information about weather events from friends and family members compared to government representatives (i.e., emergency managers, police, elected officials; Dow and Cutter 1998; Lindell et al. 2005; Mason-Dixon Polling and Research 2007; Zhang et al. 2007). That is, people are more likely to base evacuation decisions upon persuasive communications from family members than from others.

Although the preponderance of evidence supports that human activities have had an influence upon the climate system and this is resulting in globally warming temperatures (Houghton et al. 2001), contrary opinions exist and may be taken up by consumers as a justification not to adapt to weather events or climate change (McCright 2007; Michaels 2004). Popular media may confuse the occurrence of weather extremes for climate change and thus muddle the evidence of global warming for the public (Bostrom and Lashof 2007).

Interpersonal communications can be affected by a phenomenon known as the social amplification of risk (Kasperson et al. 1988), which involves the attenuation or accentuation of a risk communication based upon interactions of communication media, socio-cultural factors, organizations, and individuals. Media sources may frame an event in such a way as to arouse risk perceptions among people. Subsequent interpersonal risk communications and discussions among people who receive the information may amplify risk perceptions beyond their actual levels. Such amplified perceptions may lead to exaggerated behavioural responses which further affect the level of risk that is communicated to others.

Interpersonal communication can also occur nonverbally through the observation of other people (Bandura 1986). Observation can enable people to learn new behaviours (e.g., how to prepare a building for an approaching hurricane or cyclone) as well as facilitate the performance of behaviours already learned (e.g., seeing others making preparations or adapting may cue similar behaviours in the observer). Further, people socially compare themselves with others that they observe on a wide range of variables such as knowledge, attitudes, values, skills and abilities (Festinger 1954; Suls et al. 2002). People compare upwardly to those who exceed one's competencies in some domain, downwardly to people whose competencies the observer exceeds, and to peers who are on-par with the observer. Observation of others and social comparisons with them provides people with important information that they can use to guide their behaviours in adapting to climate variability and change.

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    What is protection motivation theory?
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