International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction; Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, Dana Rose Garfin; Published June 27, 2022; DOI: 10.1016/j.ijdrr.2022.103135


Many people do not make choices that minimize risk in the face of health and environmental threats. Using pre-registered analyses, we tested whether a risk communication that primed perceptions about health-protective preparation and behavior of close social contacts promoted protection views and protective behaviors. From December 10-24, 2020, we fielded a 2 (threat vignette: wildfire or COVID-19) x 3 (social contact prime: control, inaction, or action) experiment to a representative sample of 1108 California residents facing increased COVID-19 cases/deaths, who had recently experienced the most destructive wildfire season in California history. Outcome variables were protection views and protective behavior (i.e., information seeking). Across threat conditions, stronger social norms, efficacy, and worry predicted greater protection views and some protective behaviors. Priming social-contact action resulted in greater COVID-19 information-seeking compared to the control. In the wildfire smoke condition, priming social contact action and inaction increased perceived protective behavior social norms compared to the control; social norms and efficacy partially mediated the relationships of priming with protection views and protective behaviors; and having existing mask supplies enhanced the relationship between priming inaction and greater protection views compared to priming action or control. Findings highlight the importance of social influence for health protection views and protective behaviors. Communications enhancing social norms and self-efficacy that are sensitive to resource contexts may help promote protective behaviors.