Exemplification effects: responses to perceptions of risk

Patric R. Spence, Kenneth A. Lachlan, David Westerman, Xialing Lin, Christina J. Harris, Timothy L. Sellnow, Deborah D. Sellnow-Richmond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Exemplification theory asserts that message components that are iconic and emotionally arousing are easily accessed, and are therefore relied upon when making subsequent behavioral decisions. A reanalysis of data from three studies collected at different times, unrelated experimental stimuli (terrorism, food ingredients, and bed bugs), different media (visual and print), varying geographic locations, different experimental conditions (laboratory and online), and diverse participants suggests that these processes work differently for men and women. Results suggest that the medium through which an exemplar is presented and/or experienced may be fairly inconsequential, but there are underlying processes which may determine the extent to which individuals will modify behavioral intentions related to risks. After witnessing exemplified portrayals, women were more likely than men to express a desire to modify behavior, perceive themselves as more susceptible to the risk, and perceive the risk as being more severe across the studies. The findings are discussed in terms of directions for future research and implications for risk communication practitioners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)590-610
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 4 2017


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Strategy and Management

Cite this

Spence, P. R., Lachlan, K. A., Westerman, D., Lin, X., Harris, C. J., Sellnow, T. L., & Sellnow-Richmond, D. D. (2017). Exemplification effects: responses to perceptions of risk. Journal of Risk Research, 20(5), 590-610. https://doi.org/10.1080/13669877.2015.1100658