The Influence of Perceived Risk on Behavioral Decision Making to Engage in Primary Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Infections (HPV and HIV)
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Perceived risk, which has cognitive, affective, and experiential components, is hypothesized to be a central influence on decision making about health behavioral engagement. However, risk is typically measured solely in cognitive terms. Oftentimes, objective risk appraisals do not match cognitively-based subjective risk appraisals. Thus, individuals at increased risk for a negative health outcome, such as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), may not choose to perform a preventive behavior, even if they could greatly benefit from its use. As such, it is plausible that a better understanding of how individuals feel about their personal risk for STIs (affective components of risk) or their gut-level assessment of personal vulnerability (experiential risk) may shed light on the disconnect between increased risk for STI acquisition and lack of behavioral engagement in primary prevention strategies. Three studies were conducted to accomplish the following aims: 1) to assess how the interplay between affective and cognitive components of the perceived risk construct impact primary prevention strategies for young adults in a population with an average risk distribution for STIs; 2) to assess how the interplay between affective, cognitive, and experiential components of the perceived risk construct impact primary prevention strategies for adults in a high risk population for STIs; 3) to explore how affect (feelings), cognitions (beliefs), and experiential risk (heuristics) associated with negative health outcomes related to STIs shape risk judgments.