When increasing risk perception does not work. Using behavioral psychology to increase smoke alarm ownership

Patty C.P. Jansen (Corresponding author), Chris C.P. Snijders, Martijn C. Willemsen

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The central question of our study is which determinants drive smoke alarm ownership and intention to purchase one, and whether we can increase smoke alarm ownership by addressing these determinants in a communication-based intervention. We first made an inventory of possible determinants for smoke alarm prevention by consulting prominent prevention behavior theories protection motivation theory and Health Belief Model and other relevant literature. We expanded this list of determinants based on interviews (n = 15) and used survey data representative for the Netherlands to decide to focus on smoke alarm ownership (rather than installation or maintenance). We then tested the determinants of smoke alarm ownership and buying intention in a survey (n = 622). Based on these results, we ran an A/B test (n = 310) of two messages to stimulate smoke alarm ownership: one emphasized the determinants we found to be strong predictors in the survey (know-how, social norm, annoyance) and one emphasized typical determinants that are often addressed in campaigns but were poor predictors in the survey (vulnerability, severity, benefits). Results showed that the message based on the strong determinants resulted in a significant increase in smoke alarm ownership (9.1%) compared to the control group (0.9%; p = 0.027), while the message using the typical determinants did not lead to significant effects. Taken together, our results give a promising direction for interventions to increase smoke alarm ownership, and above all, show that a comprehensive problem analysis for a specific target behavior is a necessary step to induce behavioral change.
Originele taal-2Engels
Pagina's (van-tot)1357-1380
Aantal pagina's24
TijdschriftRisk Analysis
Nummer van het tijdschrift6
Vroegere onlinedatum14 dec. 2023
StatusGepubliceerd - jun. 2024


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