We investigated whether different Mortality Rate Formats used to express the same objective probability affected people's Emotional reactions, Risk perception, and protective behavioral intentions. A sample from the Italian population (N = 604) was exposed to six different formats (i.e. Absolute value; Raw ratio; 1 in X; Verbal; Percentage; Probability) to report the mortality rate of COVID-19 in a between-subject design. In line with expectations, the Probability format led to lower emotional reactions compared to all the other formats. Moreover, results from a path analysis revealed that emotional reactions predicted risk perception. The Mortality Rate Formats also had an indirect effect on Behavioral Intentions to protect oneself, which was mediated by emotional reactions and risk perception. The effect sizes of these indirect effects ranged from small to medium. The direct effect of risk on intentions was found to differ among two dimensions of risk. Affective Risk led to higher Behavioral Intentions, while Deliberative Risk had the opposite effect. We discuss these results in line with the ongoing debate regarding the role played by risk scientists during the pandemic and offer practical implications for risk management during health crises like COVID-19.
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