The Effect of Tolerance to Ambiguity on Risk Perception and Preventive Behavioral Intents With Ambiguously Uncertain Health Information




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The study investigated how precision and novelty in health information affect judgement and decision-making in people with different levels of tolerance to ambiguity. A three-way mixed design was used with precision (low vs. high; within subject), novelty (low vs. high; within subject), and tolerance to ambiguity (low vs. high; between subject) as independent variables, and perception of ambiguity, risk perception, preventive behavioral intents, and thinking mode as dependent variables. A sample of 320 healthy adults (age Mean = 30.67, SD = 7.35; Female% = 47.81%) were recruited via Prolific and took part in the experiment on Qualtrics. Participants read vignettes on 8 disease outbreaks in which levels of novelty and precision were manipulated, and rated statements regarding the dependent variables. Afterwards, they completed measures of individual difference factors, including tolerance to ambiguity, health literacy, numeracy, trust in public health authorities, and cognitive reflection. Results showed that high novelty and high precision increased perception of ambiguity, decreased risk perception and preventive behavioral intents, and led to more controlled/systematic inferential processing. No moderating effect of the individual difference factors were found. These findings had important implications for real- world communications on health crises, such as COVID-19 pandemic.



Psychology, Experimental, Health Sciences, Public Health, Psychology, General