A Boomerang Effect of an All-Clear Message on Radiation Risk

Uwe Hartung, Peter J. Schulz, Simone Keller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Boomerang effects are changes caused by persuasive communication against the intentions of the communicator. In risk communication, boomerang effects have so far been primarily addressed and shown for warnings in fields such as alcohol, nicotine, and drug use prevention. Boomerang effects of all-clear messages on environmental risks have so far not been demonstrated. Based on this observation, this article essentially makes three points. First, the most prominent theoretical explanations for boomerang effects do not preclude all-clear messages to have this type of effect. Second, it presents an experiment that demonstrates the existence of a boomerang effect of an all-clear message on the risk from cell phone tower radiation. Respondents who were very worried about this risk before the experiment said on average that reading a short all-clear message increased their worries. Third, if this type of boomerang effect is also found for other than radiation risks, people worried about environmental risks (including those worried without a reasonable cause) would be hard to convince they need not worry. This impedes reasonable public risk communication in the long run and creates a social group of people who harbor fears and anxieties not grounded in reality, but are immune against correction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-241
Number of pages18
JournalHuman and Ecological Risk Assessment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • all-clear messages
  • boomerang effects
  • cell phone towers
  • non-ionizing radiation
  • risk communication


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