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Title: Understanding, assessing and influencing UK consumer perceptions of the risks and benefits of shellfish : a mental models approach
Author: Boase, Nicholas James
ISNI:       0000 0004 5989 5996
Awarding Body: Exeter and Plymouth Peninsula Medical School
Current Institution: Exeter and Plymouth Peninsula Medical School
Date of Award: 2015
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Shellfish provide a range of environmental, nutritional, economic and cultural benefits to consumers, but also pose risks such as exposure to norovirus and harmful algal toxins. In the United Kingdom, despite an active industry, shellfish is a niche food with much exported abroad. The current thesis applied the Mental Models Approach to Risk Communication to understand this disparity. This involved three methodological steps, firstly semi-structured interviews which elicited and compared mental models of industry stakeholders (n=12) and the public (n=14). Secondly, a national online survey (n=1 ,568) established the prevalence of these perceptions amongst the general public, and multiple hierarchical linear regression was used to identify consumption antecedents. Finally, a novel communication was developed and compared to three conditions in a longitudinal randomised between-subjects trial, aimed at younger lower income consumers (the group identified in the second stage as having relatively high misconceptions and knowledge gaps, and low intentions to consume shellfish). Interview results identified rich and varied mental models amongst both the public and stakeholders, which included some misconceptions and knowledge gaps. Additionally, behavioural and cultural factors (e.g. perception as a treat food) also strongly influenced consumption. National survey results indicated that participants' factual uncertainty was significantly negatively associated with intentions to consume shellfish, and path analysis indicated this effect was fully mediated via attitudes. Evaluation results revealed that participants who read the novel communication scored, compared to alternative conditions (including currently available information), significantly higher for knowledge, lower for uncertainty, had more positive attitudes towards mussels, and greater intentions to consume this food. Knowledge differences remained significant after one week. Effects appeared to be driven by participants who consumed shellfish rarely, or never, but were willing to try (compared to both unwilling and frequent consumers). Methodological and practical implications for the shellfish industry and consumers are discussed. My original contribution to knowledge was uncovering how UK consumers and stakeholders perceive the risks and benefits of shellfish, and how a carefully constructed communication about risks and benefits could be developed and used to influence their attitudes and intentions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available