Predicting Risk-Mitigating Behaviors From Indecisiveness and Trait Anxiety: Two Cognitive Pathways to Task Avoidance

Ilona M McNeill, Patrick Dunlop, Timothy Skinner, David L Morrison

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Past research suggests that indecisiveness and trait anxiety may both decrease the likelihood of performing risk-mitigating preparatory behaviors (e.g., preparing for natural hazards) and suggests two cognitive processes (perceived control and worrying) as potential mediators. However, no single study to date has examined the influence of these traits and processes together. Examining them simultaneously is necessary to gain an integrated understanding of their relationship with risk-mitigating behaviors. We therefore examined these traits and mediators in relation to wildfire preparedness in a two-wave field study among residents of wildfire-prone areas in Western Australia (total N=223). Structural equation modeling results showed that indecisiveness uniquely predicted preparedness, with higher indecisiveness predicting lower preparedness. This relationship was fully mediated by perceived control over wildfire-related outcomes. Trait anxiety did not uniquely predict preparedness or perceived control, but it did uniquely predict worry, with higher trait anxiety predicting more worrying. Also, worry trended toward uniquely predicting preparedness, albeit in an unpredicted positive direction. This shows how the lack of performing risk-mitigating behaviors can result from distinct cognitive processes that are linked to distinct personality traits. It also highlights how simultaneous examination of multiple pathways to behavior creates a fuller understanding of its antecedents.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)36-45
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Personality
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016


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