Strategies for dismissing dietary risks: Insights from user-generated comments online

A. Regan, L. Shan, A. McConnon, A. Marcu, M. Raats, P. Wall, J. Barnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (SciVal)
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Communication around chronic dietary risks has proved challenging as dietary health risks are ostensibly met with attenuated perceptions of their likelihood and consequences. In this article, we examine the strategies that an online public use to negotiate risk messages from expert stakeholders that may be incongruent with their own position on a risk. Progressing from conceptualisations of amplification as laid out in the social amplification of risk framework, we are particularly interested in understanding whether and how amplifications of risk may be attributed towards other stakeholders. The article presents an analysis of comments posted on a website oriented to a British audience. These comments were left by members of the public in reply to two online media articles published in 2012 reporting on an epidemiological study carried out in the United States on the risks of red meat consumption. We found that the comments generally expressed resistance to the risk message, embodied in two main strategies. The first strategy was to discount the message itself by deploying rules of thumb that undermined the applicability of the general risk message to the particularities of the individual. The second strategy was to undermine the risks by casting doubt on the credibility of the message source. Together, these strategies allowed the commenters to argue that the risks and the process of communicating them resulted in an exaggerated picture. These findings highlight that by attributing amplification to others, further polarisation of risk views between stakeholders may occur. Thinking about amplification as an attribution provides a distinct and significant conceptual contribution to the study of incongruent risk responses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-322
Number of pages15
JournalHealth Risk & Society
Issue number4
Early online date28 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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