Term of Award

Summer 2019

Degree Name

Master of Science in Experimental Psychology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Karen Naufel

Committee Member 1

Lawrence Locker

Committee Member 2

Amy Hackney


This study examines how jargon and language complexity impact perceptions of tornado warnings. Protection motivation theory (PMT) asserts that as the readability and use of jargon in a warning and call to action increases, an individual’s ability to estimate threat and respond accordingly decreases. However, research had not examined how the use of complex language in a meteorological setting impact coping factors (self-efficacy, response efficacy, and response cost) and threat factors (vulnerability, fear, and severity). This study tested whether jargon in weather warnings and increased language complexity in calls to action affected PMT variables. Eighty-one participants viewed tornado warnings and calls to action. The use of jargon (jargon vs no jargon) in the weather warning and the reading level of the call to action (high vs low) was manipulated. Participants assessed, fear, severity, vulnerability, response cost, self-efficacy, response efficacy, and intent to take protective action. It was hypothesized that fear, severity, vulnerability, and response cost would increase due to increased language complexity, and self-efficacy and response efficacy were expected to decrease due to increase of jargon and reading level. Results indicate PMT is effective for examining weather related behavioral responses. However, was no evidence supporting the main hypotheses were observed. The use of jargon and reading level did not impact coping or treat variables. A failure of the manipulation may have occurred, or experience with storms may have been a confound. An error in the creation of the Qualtrics form occurred, these results should be interpreted cautiously.

Research Data and Supplementary Material


Available for download on Tuesday, June 25, 2024