Using protection motivation theory in the design of nudges to improve online security behavior

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Abstract

We conducted an online experiment (n = 2024) on a representative sample of internet users in Germany, Sweden, Poland, Spain and the UK to explore the effect of notifications on security behaviour. Inspired by protection motivation theory (PMT), a coping message advised participants on how to minimize their exposure to risk and a threat appeal highlighted the potential negative consequences of not doing so. Both increased secure behavior – but the coping message significantly more so. The coping message was also as effective as both messages combined, but not so the threat appeal. Risk attitudes, age and country had a significant effect on behavior. Initiatives seeking to promote secure behavior should focus more on coping messages, either alone or in combination with fear appeals.

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van Bavel, R., Rodríguez-Priego, N., Vila, J., & Briggs, P. (2019). Using protection motivation theory in the design of nudges to improve online security behavior. International Journal of Human Computer Studies, 123, 29–39. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhcs.2018.11.003

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