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Product Quality Risk Perceptions and Decisions: Contaminated Pet Food and Lead‐Painted Toys


In the context of the recent recalls of contaminated pet food and lead-painted toys in the United States, we examine patterns of risk perceptions and decisions when facing consumer product-caused quality risks. Two approaches were used to explore risk perceptions of the product recalls. In the first approach, we elicited judged probabilities and found that people appear to have greatly overestimated the actual risks for both product scenarios. In the second approach, we applied the psychometric paradigm to examine risk perception dimensions concerning these two specific products through factor analysis. There was a similar risk perception pattern for both products: they are seen as unknown risks and are relatively not dread risks. This pattern was also similar to what prior research found for lead paint. Further, we studied people's potential actions to deal with the recalls of these two products. Several factors were found to be significant predictors of respondents' cautious actions for both product scenarios. Policy considerations regarding product quality risks are discussed. For example, risk communicators could reframe information messages to prompt people to consider total risks packed together from different causes, even when the risk message has been initiated due to a specific recall event.

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