Information Processing of Genetically Modiﬁed Food
Messages Under Different Motives: An Adaptation of the
Multiple-Motive Heuristic-Systematic Model
Jooyoung Kim1,∗ and Hye-Jin Paek2
Recent risk management research has noted the importance of understanding how the lay public processes and reacts to risk-related information. Guided by the multiple-motive heuristic-systematic model, this study examines (1) how individuals process messages in the context of genetically modiﬁed foods to change their attitudes and (2) how the persuasion process varies across types of motives. In the three treatment conditions of accuracy, defense, and impression motives, the respondents changed their attitudes through either the heuristic or the systematic mode, depending on their motives. The accuracy-motive group appeared to use the systematic processing mode, while the impression-motive group seemed to employ the heuristic processing mode. The empirical ﬁndings highlight the importance of incorporating motives to improve our understanding of the process of attitude change in risk management and communication contexts.
KEY WORDS: Attitude change; genetically modiﬁed organism; heuristic-systematic model; information processing
of the GM food issue they support. They may support GM food because it increases productivity and reduces pesticide use. Or they may oppose it because it threatens food safety and violates ethical norms.(2)
Despite the heated public debates about GM food, recent qualitative studies(3,4) and quantitative studies(1) have found that a majority of the lay public remains ambivalent or uncertain. The uncertainty may arise from the fact that the lay public rarely has the time and expertise needed to understand sciencerelated risk issues. As a result, an issue like GM food remains misunderstood because its potential risks and beneﬁts appear uncertain.(5) But for GM stakeholders to communicate with and educate the public more effectively, they need to understand how laypeople (1) process scientiﬁcally-based risk/beneﬁt information about GM foods and (2) change their attitudes toward GM food as an issue.
Determining public attitudes toward controversial food safety issues is not an easy task. The technologies involved and the debates produced by the issues themselves are multi-faceted and complex. Genetically modiﬁed (GM) food is an ideal example of a topic that generates such divisive messages.(1)
Laypeople may have difﬁculty deciding which side
of Advertising and Public Relations, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, The University of
Georgia, Athens, GA, USA.
2 Department of Advertising, Public Relations & Retailing, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA.
∗ Address correspondence to Jooyoung Kim, Department of Advertising and Public Relations, Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, The University of Georgia, Athens,
GA 30602-3018, USA; tel: 706-542-1190; fax: 706-542-2183; email@example.com. 1793
2009 Society for Risk Analysis
Guided by the heuristic systematic model
(HSM), this study investigates how individuals process GM food messages for their attitude change and analyzes how the attitude change varies across types of motives. The HSM posits a dual process for persuasion: people process information through either the systematic or the heuristic mode depending on their motivation and ability. The model is similar to another dual-mode processing model (i.e., the elaboration likelihood model). But compared to this model, the HSM seems to have more advantages in terms of its theoretical sophistication, ﬂexibility, and explanatory power.(6) In risk management and communication contexts, a few researchers have only recently used the HSM to study the public’s processing of and