The Interaction of Emotion and Gender on the Social Amplification of Risk: Why Twitter?
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Micro blogging sites such as Twitter have fundamentally changed the way that individuals communicate and spread information, with greater speed and greater representation of how affected individuals feel about given situations. By seeking information that is available on Twitter, individuals are constructing their opinions based on a large source of data from their peers. Laypeople are now influential amplification agents during unfolding crises. Factors that amplify or attenuate perceptions of risk may have far-reaching implications for risk communication research within emerging new social media contexts. In order to explore these factors, we experimentally manipulated content about risk information, specific emotion, and emotional imagery via hypothetical Twitter community event pages and measured risk perceptions, behavioral intentions, and subjective emotions that may accompany the amplification or attenuation of risk through social media. Across three experimental studies, emotion increased the seeking and sharing of information and behavior associated with risk prevention and regulation during crisis communication via experimental Twitter feeds. Gender was a substantial factor that impacted subjective emotion, risk, and behavior. Females demonstrated higher scores than males on the majority of these dependent measures when anger and sadness were induced (Studies 1 and 2) and when only anger was manipulated (Study 3). This attests to the significant impact that gender has for processing emotion in crisis communication. Emotion and risk influenced each other recursively for information seeking and sharing behavior, and emotion content increased subjective emotion compared to information content. Spokesperson strategies effectively reduced negative emotion, information seeking and sharing, information generation, and regulatory action related to the risk event. The present research suggests that evidence-based strategies may be applicable in the domain of social media crisis management. It is imperative that we further investigate the interplay of emotion and information as underlying mechanisms in relation to how information diffusion operates in new social media, as we do not know how perceptions of risk may be generated or altered in this relatively unexplored domain.