DANGER! NO HIKING! Risky hiking decisions, framing of normative warning messages, and self-exempting beliefs


Natural resource managers are often dismayed that visitors disobey warning signs, which can contribute to accidents and injuries. This study examined whether normative content within signs as well as internal beliefs of the hiker predicted responses to warning messages. College students (N = 198) with recent hiking experience read four hypothetical risky hiking scenarios (e.g., getting too close to a cliff edge or bison) and were shown warning signs that varied norm type (injunctive versus descriptive) and framing (positive versus negative). Participants rated likelihood to hike and get hurt, and responded to scales measuring self-exempting beliefs and risk attitudes. Signs with descriptive norms and negative framing were most effective. Self-exempting beliefs were better predictors of likelihood to hike and get hurt ratings than risk attitudes. Results suggest that visitor safety might be enhanced by framing warning messages to include descriptive normative information and to target self-exempting beliefs.




Kortenkamp, Katherine V., Colleen F. Moore, Ellie M. Miller, and Kathryn V. Truell. “DANGER! NO HIKING! Risky Hiking Decisions, Framing of Normative Warning Messages, and Self-Exempting Beliefs.” Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism 35 (September 2021): 100415. doi:10.1016/j.jort.2021.100415.
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