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Refining and Enhancing Risk Message Testing for Use with Vulnerable Populations and the General Population    

Award No.: 
Principal Investigator: 
Robert Littlefield
PI Organization: 
North Dakota State University
Problem Addressed: Previous research suggested that learning styles and particular message variables influence how people respond to risk messages. For example, participants whose learning style indicated a preference for reflective observation were not persuaded by any of the communication strategies used in the prototype message developed for testing in 2008/09. However, all participants were affected by strategies reflecting concrete experience. In other words, seeing someone experience the crisis was persuasive to all. While much research has examined how entities respond to crises messages, little has focused on how individual differences (including cultural) interact with message characteristics related to learning styles. The present study draws from these findings from earlier NCFPD projects and extends our knowledge of how learning style message characteristics influence behavior. Methods Used: (1) Establish the culture-centered participatory action research (PAR) infrastructure necessary to identify and work with three different vulnerable cultural populations and the general population, (2) work with instructional design and learning styles specialists, along with cultural collaborators, to develop specific risk message scripts for use in testing, (3) produce media and instruments to measure audience responses to risk messages, (4) use an experimental design methodology to test audience receptivity and message impact, (5) collaborate with PAR infrastructure to administer surveys and collect data, (6) analyze data based upon specific embedded message strategies. Potential Outcomes: This project will (1) increase understanding and involvement of the general population, including vulnerable cultural groups in matters of national food security, (2) result in a variety of publications targeted at the general public, specific cultural groups, academicians, government and community leaders, decision-makers in the food industry, and policy makers, (3) provide new data for the Education Group to integrate into training and curricular materials, (4) promote greater involvement in the DHS food system defense program by members of minority serving institutions in different regions of the country and voluntary associations of new American groups. Specific End Users: Department of Homeland Security, theme groups within NCFPD who interact with vulnerable populations, risk communicator educators training the next generation of leaders, educational leaders at minority serving institutions, and food safety spokespeople in industry and agencies who develop risk and crisis communication plans to use in the event of catastrophic, intentional contamination of the food system.