Costs and benefits: The role of individual differences and warning labels in safety decision-making
Smith, Danielle P.
Laughery, Kenneth R., Sr.
Doctor of Philosophy
The impact of the physical design elements on the effectiveness of warning labels has been well researched over the past few decades. This research extends warning design research by applying a value-expectancy model to safety decision-making (DeJoy, 1999a) by explicitly examining how a well-designed warning label impacts perceptions of the costs and benefits, or expected value, of using a product. This problem is examined within the context of over-the-counter dietary supplements used to lose weight---a product with perceived value in certain groups and with two potential cost-benefit analyses associated with it (using the pills and seeing a doctor first). First, a qualitative study was conducted in order to determine what consumers and potential consumers know about the safety of dietary supplements. Further, Study 1 (n = 25) gathered information regarding what costs and benefits participants (may) consider when deciding whether or not to use diet pills and when deciding whether or not to see a physician before using the pills. The Study 1 findings were used to craft two warning labels that were used in Study 2 ( n = 174). The warning labels were either framed to highlight consequences of each hazard presented or were framed to be more neutral and only present hazard information, leaving the participant to infer consequences. Interestingly, although the consequence label increased expected compliance, in accord with past research (e.g. Laughery, Vaubel, Young, Brelsford, and Rowe, 1993), the consequence label only significantly increased the perceived costs associated with the precautionary action (i.e. visiting a doctor before using) and not with using the pills. These results, along with the findings relevant to individual differences, may help to identify instances where well-designed warnings do not always yield compliance in the field. That is, though warning labels may be impact participant perceptions of expected compliance, they may not impact perceptions of the precautionary action in expected ways.