Effects of Numerical Versus Foreground-Only Icon Displays on Understanding of Risk Magnitudes.
The aim of this work is to advance knowledge of how to measure gist and verbatim understanding of risk magnitude information and to apply this knowledge to address whether graphics that focus on the number of people affected (the numerator of the risk ratio, i.e., the foreground) are effective displays for increasing (a) understanding of absolute and relative risk magnitudes and (b) risk avoidance. In 2 experiments, the authors examined the effects of a graphical display that used icons to represent the foreground information on measures of understanding (Experiments 1 and 2) and on perceived risk, affect, and risk aversion (Experiment 2). Consistent with prior findings, this foreground-only graphical display increased perceived risk and risk aversion; however, it also led to decreased understanding of absolute (although not relative) risk magnitudes. Methodologically, this work shows the importance of distinguishing understanding of absolute risk from understanding of relative risk magnitudes, and the need to assess gist knowledge of both types of risk. Substantively, this work shows that although using foreground-only graphical displays is an appealing risk communication strategy to increase risk aversion, doing so comes at the cost of decreased understanding of absolute risk magnitudes.
Stone, ER; Gabard, AR; Groves, AE; Lipkus, IM
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