Fear-mongering or fact-driven? Illuminating the interplay of objective risk and emotion-evoking form in the response to epidemic news

Celine Klemm*, Tilo Hartmann, Enny Das

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

This study examined the veracity of the common assumption that news coverage of epidemic outbreaks spawns heightened fears and risk perceptions. An online experiment with 1,324 participants investigated the interplay of the form of news coverage (factual/emotion-laden) and key aspects of actual risk
(low/high vulnerability, low/high severity) on audience responses. Participants read one of eight versions of a newspaper article followed by measures on risk perceptions, negative affect, behavioral intentions, and perceived sensationalism. Risk perceptions and fear were primarily driven by objective risk characteristics, whereas emotion-laden news form only increased perceptions of disease severity, not of fear or personal vulnerability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-83
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Communication
Volume34
Issue number1
Early online date23 Oct 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019

Funding

This study is part of the E-com@eu project. The research leading to these results has received funding from the Commission of the European Communities Seventh Framework Programme under grant agreement no. 278763. The study does not necessarily reflect the Commission’s views and in no way anticipates the Commission’s future policy in this area.

FundersFunder number
Seventh Framework Programme278763
Seventh Framework Programme

    Keywords

    • health
    • epidemic
    • communication
    • emotion
    • sensationalism
    • media

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