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Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2018 Oct;44(10):1411-1423. doi: 10.1177/0146167218769064. Epub 2018 May 2.

On Being More Amenable to Threatening Risk Messages Concerning Close Others (vis-à-vis the Self).

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1 National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA.


People often respond defensively to risk messages impugning their own behavior. We explored whether people are more amenable to risk messages impugning a close other's behavior. In two experiments, participants learned how being overweight could influence their own cancer risk or that of an opposite-sex close other. As predicted, participants expressed higher affective risk perceptions (i.e., worry) and experiential risk perceptions for their close others than for themselves. Participants in the close other condition also reported greater interest in diagnostic testing and additional information (Experiment 1) and greater interest in consulting a provider and more plans for remediation (Experiment 2). These effects were mediated by a combination of worry and experiential risk perceptions. The self/other difference emerged even though participants endorsed the messages as believable and relevant; participants were simply more willing to extrapolate from the message to their close other's risk than to their own risk.


defensive responding; risk messages; risk perceptions

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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