The effects of news media reports on earthquake attributions and preventability judgments: Mixed messages about the Canterbury earthquake

McClure, John; Velluppillai, Justin
January 2013
Australasian Journal of Disaster & Trauma Studies;2013, Vol. 2013 Issue 1, p27
Academic Journal
The research examined the effects of two different types of message in the news media in the weeks following the February 2011, Canterbury earthquake. Fatalistic messages portrayed widespread, generalized damage with no reference to the performance of different types of buildings, whereas informed messages conveyed the distinctiveness of damage and the flawed design of most buildings that were damaged. The study examined the effects of these two different messages on judgments of the cause and preventability of the earthquake damage, fatalism about earthquakes in general, and estimates of the proportion of buildings that were damaged. Participants (N = 75) read either fatalistic messages or informed messages. Informed reports led to higher attributions for damage to controllable causes and higher preventability ratings than fatalistic reports. These findings show that the different messages in the news media have contrasting effects on judgments about damage in a recent, local, earthquake, despite competing real world information. These results clarify which messages are likely to facilitate preparedness for earthquakes and other hazards, and have several implications for risk communication strategies.


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