Behavioral Research

Table of Contents
1 General Description & Theoretical Background
2 Definitions of Perceived Vulnerability in Health Behavior Theories
3 Measurement and Methodological Issues

Similar Constructs



6 Published Examples

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Other Constructs



Dispositional Optimism




Illness Representations

  Implementation Intentions
  Intention, Expectation, and Willingness
  Normative Beliefs
  Optimistic Bias
  Perceived Benefits
  Perceived Control
  Perceived Severity
  Perceived Vulnerability
  Self-Reported Behavior
  Social Influence
  Social Support

Perceived Vulnerability
Meg Gerrard and Amy E. Houlihan

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4 Similar Constructs

Fatalism: Fatalism is a general belief that one's life is under the control of fate or other external forces. People high in fatalism tend to think that their actions have little impact on their lives, so they may be less likely to take health precautions. Fatalism measures include items such as, "I feel that nothing I can do will make any difference" and "I have left it all to my doctors" (Osborne, Elsworth, Kissane, Burke, & Hopper, 1999, p. 1340).

Unrealistic Optimism: Unrealistic optimism (Weinstein, 1982) is the belief that one is less vulnerable to health problems in general, or to a specific health problem, than peers. People consistently show this tendency, especially when they perceive that the problem is controllable or rare and when they lack experience with the problem. Covey & Davies (2004)  distinguish between two types of unrealistic optimism measures. The first, the direct measure, asks respondents to provide a single comparative risk judgment in which they indicate if the chances that a negative event will happen to them are below or above the average for people the same age and gender (e.g., "Compared to other women your age, what are the chances of you getting skin cancer?"). The second measure, the indirect measure, asks respondents to make two absolute judgments: one for themselves and one for a comparison target (e.g., "How likely is it that you will get skin cancer?" and "How likely is it that the average person your age and gender will get skin cancer?"; cf. Perloff & Fetzer, 1986).

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