Unpacking Protection Motivation Theory: evidence for a separate protective and non-protective route in private flood mitigation behavior
Journal of Risk Research , 2019
Flood preparedness of private households is regarded an essential building block of integrated flood risk management. In the past decade, numerous empirical studies have employed the protection motivation theory (PMT) to explain flood mitigation behavior at the household level. However, much of this research has produced mixed results and could not consistently confirm the strength and direction of the relationships between the PMT components. Based on a survey of 2,007 households in flood-prone areas, this study revisits the model structure of the PMT by means of structural equation modeling. Compared to the methods used in previous studies, this modeling technique allows us to capture the PMT components in greater detail and to comprehensively test their hypothesized interrelations. Our results point to two separate routes leading to two different response types: A protective route from coping appraisal to protective behavior, and a non-protective route from threat appraisal to non-protective responses. Risk perception is not found to be part of the protective route, neither are non-protective responses confirmed to undermine protection motivation. The two separate routes are observed consistently across all combinations of the six protective and four non-protective responses assessed in this study. In the light of encouraging private flood adaptation, risk communication measures should specifically target the protective route and avoid (accidentally) providing incentives that fall within the non-protective route. This cross-sectional study, however, cannot establish how the two routes interrelate over time. More experimental and longitudinal research is required to address potential feedback effects and the role of decision stages.
Keywords: Flood risk management, risk research, climate change adaptation, risk perception, coping beliefs, household flood preparedness