van Bavel, R. et al.Using protection motivation theory in the design of nudges to improve online security behavior

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René van Bavel, Nuria Rodríguez-Priego, José Vila & Pam Briggs

Release date:
March 2019

International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, Volume 123, pages 29–39

The authors conducted an online experiment (n = 2024) on a representative sample of internet users in Germany, Sweden, Poland, Spain and the UK to explore the effect of notifications on security behavior. Inspired by protection motivation theory (PMT), a coping message advised participants on how to minimize their exposure to risk and a threat appeal highlighted the potential negative consequences of not doing so. Both increased secure behavior – but the coping message significantly more so. The coping message was also as effective as both messages combined, but not so the threat appeal. Risk attitudes, age and country had a significant effect on behavior. Initiatives seeking to promote secure behavior should focus more on coping messages, either alone or in combination with fear appeals.

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