This study examined the relation between health behavior and risk perceptions in the context of an acute livestock epidemic. Participants in a longitudinal web-based survey (N= 195) were asked to report their meat consumption and their perceived risk in relation to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and other related livestock diseases. Cross-sectional analyses at both measurement points (T1 and T2) showed that participants with low levels of preventive nutrition (high meat consumption) felt more at risk for BSE-related diseases than those reporting comparable higher levels of preventive behavior (low meat consumption), indicating relative accuracy. These results suggest that people recognize when their behavior is risky. More importantly, perceived risk also showed adaptive accuracy from a change perspective: increases in preventive nutrition from T1 to T2 were significantly associated with decreases in perceived risk between T1 and T2. Possible foundations and implications of an adaptive accuracy of risk perceptions are discussed.
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