Impact of Movie Depictions of Volcanic Disaster on Risk Perception and Judgments

March 2000 (VOL. 18, NO. 1)

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This study examines how movie depictions of a volcanic disaster influence viewers’ perception and judgments concerning disaster-related experiences. A total of 162 college students watched one of three video clips: (1) the movie – Volcano – a portrayal of a volcanic disaster taking place in the city of Los Angeles; (2) the documentary National Geographic’s Volcano; and (3) an instructional video on gardening (control). Subjects then filled out a questionnaire that measures their perception of victimization risk, victimization apprehension, problem seriousness, and risk locus of control (RLOC). As for those who watched the movie, message involvement, perceived realism, and role attractiveness were measured as mediator variables. Overall, the results reveal that subjects in the volcanic movie (drama) and documentary conditions exhibited higher levels of fear and worry about falling victim to a volcanic disaster than did subjects in the control condition. For subjects in the drama condition, perceived realism of the presentation and role attractiveness of the characters increased the level of fear about volcanic disasters and induced heightened estimates of volcanic risk victimization. Further, increased role attractiveness was associated with greater levels of external risk locus of control.