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Where is the bliss in being ignorant? Risk information avoidance effects on attitudes and perceived knowledge of red meat consumption risks

Authors: Rui Gaspar, Sílvia Luís, Beate Seibt, Luisa Lima, Afrodita Marcu, Pieter Rutsaert, Dave Fletcher, Wim Verbeke, Julie Barnett

People often avoid personally relevant information about risks that is not consonant with their cognitions and expectations. In this study we focused on the effects of avoiding information about red meat risks (health, nutritional, environmental, …) by means of a longitudinal design which assessed the: a) change in attitudes towards red meat and in the perceived knowledge of risks; b) subjective experience associated with the communication received and study participation (overall feelings of enjoyment); and c) red meat risk information seeking behavior. Data analyses showed that individuals who avoided risk information the most - avoiders - searched less for risk-related information, reported less positive attitudes towards red meat but increased their perceived knowledge of red meat risks upon exposure to information, when compared to people who avoided risk information the less - non-avoiders. Risk information avoiders were also the ones most likely to accept it and who may have had the most to gain from exposure. Results are discussed in accordance with cognitive dissonance theory, systematic processing of information approaches and its relation to suppression strategies.

Keywords: risks information avoidance; cognitive dissonance; selective exposure to information