Public perceptions of aquaculture :exploring the influence of mass media and decision heuristics in shaping risk perceptions


Amberg, Shannon Milanowski.. (2008). Public perceptions of aquaculture :exploring the influence of mass media and decision heuristics in shaping risk perceptions. Theses and Dissertations Collection, University of Idaho Library Digital Collections.

Public perceptions of aquaculture :exploring the influence of mass media and decision heuristics in shaping risk perceptions
Amberg, Shannon Milanowski.
Salmon farming--Press coverage--United States Salmon farming--United States--Public opinion
Natural Resources
The current research seeks to understand the linkage between media messages about risk issues and public perceptions of these issues. This dissertation accomplishes this by examining U.S. newspaper attention (2000-2006) to health and environmental issues regarding farmed salmon and salmon aquaculture and investigating what fish consumers in Idaho and Washington perceive to be the risks and benefits of aquaculture production and consuming farmed salmon. Three research goals were accomplished through three individual studies. The first goal was to understand what types of risks and benefits were presented in news stories about farmed salmon. A content analysis of 206 regional and national newspaper stories identified the types of environmental and health risks and benefits that were presented in media coverage, how often they appeared, and how the volume of coverage fluctuated over time in relation to two scientific reports about contamination in farmed salmon. The second goal was to understand the nature of messages conveyed in news stories and how language was used to present the issues and structure claims about risks and benefits. A combination of content and discourse analysis was used to assess the precision (high, moderate, or low) with which quantitative information was provided in news stories, as well as how rhetoric was used to describe the magnitude and certainty of the health risks and benefits of consuming farmed salmon. The third goal was to understand how consumers perceive the farmed salmon issues and assess how media attention has shaped public opinion. In-depth, semi-structured interviews with consumers in Idaho and Washington (n=94) investigated general perceptions, awareness of health and environmental issues regarding farmed salmon, and decision-making strategies used in choices about seafood. Analysis indicated that news stories presented a predominantly negative image about farmed salmon (emphasizing health and environmental risks) and that information was presented in a low precision, qualitative format that typically amplified the impacts of risks. Analysis of consumer interviews revealed a dominant negative perception of farmed salmon and aquaculture in general and that messages from media stories shape perceptions and direct purchasing behavior. Findings also reveal that heuristic decision rules are commonly used in consumer decision-making regarding seafood.
Thesis (Ph. D., Natural Resources)--University of Idaho, May 2008.
Major Professor:
Troy E. Hall.
Defense Date:
May 2008.
Format Original:
xii, 140 leaves :ill. ;29 cm.

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