Delta areas such as the Netherlands are more and more at risk of future flooding due to global climate change. Motivating residents living in flood-prone areas to effectively cope with local floods may lead to minimization of material losses and loss of life. The aim of this research was to investigate whether the extent to which residents had been exposed to flooding in the past was a key factor in motivating residents to effectively cope with future flooding. We also focused on the psychological variables that mediated this relationship. We conducted a survey (N = 516) among flood victims and nonvictims. We assessed subjective experiences due to past flooding, affective and cognitive appraisals, and coping responses. Results show that victims reported stronger emotions (negative and positive), and the receipt of more social support due to past flooding than did nonvictims. Moreover, victims worry more about future flooding, perceive themselves as more vulnerable to future flooding, perceive the consequences of future flooding as more severe, and have stronger intentions to take adaptive actions in the future than nonvictims. Structural equation modeling reveals that the latter effect was fully mediated by specific experiences and appraisals. Insights into factors and processes that have the potential to motivate residents to effectively cope with future floods may prove helpful in developing interventions to inform residents how to act effectively in case of an imminent flood. © 2009 Society for Risk Analysis.