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What Motivates Individuals to Protect Themselves from Risks: The Case of Wildland Fires

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This research investigates the cognitive perceptual process that homeowners go through when faced with the decision to protect themselves from the risk of wildfires. This decision can be examined by looking at the interaction between the integrated protection motivation theory—transtheoretical model and different levels of homeowners' subjective knowledge related to wildfire risks. We investigated the role of motivation, decision stages of risk readiness, and subjective knowledge on the number of risk-mitigating actions undertaken by homeowners living in high-risk communities. The results indicate that homeowners who are in an early or precontemplative stage (both low and high subjective knowledge) as well as low knowledge contemplatives are motivated by their perceived degree of vulnerability to mitigate the risk. In contrast, high knowledge contemplatives' potential behavioral changes are more likely to be motivated by increasing their perceptions of the severity of the risk. Risk-mitigating behaviors undertaken by high knowledge action homeowners are influenced by their perceptions of risk severity, self-efficacy, and response efficacy. In contrast, the low knowledge action homeowners engage in risk reduction behaviors without the influence of any of the PMT variables; demonstrating their motivation to emulate others in their community. These results have implications for the type of information that should be used to effectively communicate risks in an effort to influence the diverse homeowner segments to engage in risk-reduction behaviors.
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Keywords: Natural hazards; protection motivation theory (PMT); risk communication; risk perceptions; subjective knowledge; transtheoretical model (TTM)

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-08-01

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