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Assessing perceptions of synergistic health risk: a comparison of two scales.

Authors
  • Hampson, Sarah E
  • Andrews, Judy A
  • Barckley, Maureen
  • Lee, Michael E
  • Lichtenstein, Edward
Type
Published Article
Journal
Risk analysis : an official publication of the Society for Risk Analysis
Publication Date
Oct 01, 2003
Volume
23
Issue
5
Pages
1021–1029
Identifiers
PMID: 12969416
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Two approaches to measuring perceptions of synergistic risk were compared, one using the traditional Likert scale, the other using an anchored, relative scale. Perception of synergistic risk was defined as rating the combined hazard as more risky than each of its constituent single hazards. In a within-subjects design, a convenience sample from the community (N= 604) rated three hazard combinations and their constituents: Driving while Intoxicated (familiar, high synergy), Radon and Smoking (unfamiliar, high synergy), and Smoking and Driving (familiar, low synergy), on both scales. The relative scale was expected to be a more sensitive measure of synergy than the Likert scale. The effects of item order (single hazards rated first versus combined hazards rated first) were examined between subjects. Driving while Intoxicated was perceived by the large majority of participants as a synergistic risk on both scales, but neither of the other two combined hazards were rated synergistically on either scale. The relative scale demonstrated a slight advantage over the Likert scale, and presenting the single hazards first for the relative scale produced more synergistic ratings. It is recommended that anchored, relative scales be used to measure synergy and that single hazards be presented prior to the combined hazards when using relative scales.

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