Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Brandon, Thomas H.


smoking, risk perception, college students, need for cognition, risk messages


The primary purpose of this study was to examine the potential joint influence of need for cognition (NC), the dispositional preference for engaging in (or avoiding) effortful cognitive processing of information, and type of smoking risk message (i.e., factual and evaluative messages similar in message content and length) on the construction of smoking-relevant risk perceptions among college smokers. A secondary purpose was to examine potential mechanisms through which changes in risk perception might occur. 227 college smokers evaluated one of three pamphlets, (1) a factual (i.e., primarily fact-based) smoking risk pamphlet, (2) an evaluative (i.e., primarily emotion based) smoking risk pamphlet, or (3) a control pamphlet unrelated to smoking. Among occasional smokers, NC interacted with type of risk message to influence perceptions of post-pamphlet risk for several of the risk perception outcomes examined.

Specifically, smokers lower in NC reported higher levels of perceived risk in response to the evaluative pamphlet whereas smokers higher in NC reported greater perceived risk in response to the factual pamphlet. The interaction did not predict risk perception outcomes among daily smokers. Significant changes in the mechanisms examined were not observed. Findings provide evidence that NC interacts with type of smoking risk message to influence changes in smoking-related health risk perceptions among occasional college smokers. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.