Using protection motivation theory in the design of nudges to improve online security behavior

van Bavel, Rene; Rodriguez-Priego, Nuria; Vila, Jose; Briggs, Pam

VL / 123 - BP / 29 - EP / 39
We conducted an online experiment (n = 2024) on a representative sample of Internet users in Germany, Sweden, Poland, Spain and the UK to explore the effect of notifications on security behaviour. Inspired by protection motivation theory (PMT), a coping message advised participants on how to minimize their exposure to risk and a threat appeal highlighted the potential negative consequences of not doing so. Both increased secure behavior but the coping message significantly more so. The coping message was also as effective as both messages combined, but not so the threat appeal. Risk attitudes, age and country had a significant effect on behavior. Initiatives seeking to promote secure behavior should focus more on coping messages, either alone or in combination with fear appeals.

Access level

Gold other, Green accepted