Author(s): Zlatev M, Pahl S, White M
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Abstract Studies have investigated perceived own risk as a predictor of behavioural change, but only few have investigated perceived risk to others. However, many risks are distributed, affecting other people as much as the 'agents' of the behaviour in question. Further, research on health perceptions has focussed more on risk than benefit even though people generally choose to engage in behaviours because of benefits not risks. The present study investigated the acceptance of smoking restrictions in Germany, a country that at the time of conducting the research had few restrictions on smoking. Smokers (N = 147) rated the benefits and risks of smoking for themselves and others, and their attitudes towards smoking restrictions. We replicated comparative optimism and reality constraints concerning smoking risks. Additionally, we found that participants overestimated their own benefits compared to other smokers ('comparative utility'). Importantly, own benefits but risks to others best predicted the acceptance of smoking regulations. Moreover, smokers who intended to quit differed from those who did not intend to quit. These findings are potentially important for policy makers aiming to broaden acceptance of regulations for risky behaviours: It may be more effective to remind people they are putting others at risk rather than themselves.
This article was published in Psychol Health
and referenced in Journal of Pollution Effects & Control