Sun protection: exploring prototype perceptions

Morris, K., Swinbourne, A., and Harrison, S. (2012) Sun protection: exploring prototype perceptions. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 19 (Supp 1). S43-S43.

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Background and Objectives: In Australia, public health messages have warned of the dangers of excessive UV exposure for more than thirty years, predominantly through promoting increased sun protection and decreased deliberate sun tanning. Research has pushed for increased knowledge of risks, and a reduction in positive attitudes toward tanning. These messages target the reflective, intentional element of behaviour. While this approach has shown some success, it is limited in its ability to be adapted to regions such as North Queensland where comparatively few people intentionally sunbathe. Despite this, the incidence of skin cancer in North Queensland is among the highest in the world. This would indicate that much of the damage due to UV exposure happens whilst going about normal daily activities - by incidental sun exposure. Incidental exposure is not planned or deliberate, thus theoretical modeling used in research should reflect this. The overall aim of the current study is to adopt a dual-processing framework to examine the psychosocial variables associated with incidental sun exposure.

Method: The current study explored perceptions associated with sun related prototypes. Prototypes are social constructs with social consequences. In a sun protection paradigm these are perceptions about the typical person who deliberately suntans, the typical person who protects themselves from the sun, and the typical person who acquires a tan incidentally. Semi-structured interviews were initially conducted as an exploration followed by a survey which sought to identify the specific characteristics of each of the 'prototypes'.

Results: Preliminary results indicated that distinct prototypes exist within a sun protection paradigm. Unlike perceptions surrounding incidental tanners and sun protectors, participants held negative perceptions toward the deliberate tanner prototype. Furthermore, individuals tend to align with the incidental prototype - despite engaging in deliberate tanning behaviours. These unrealistic self perceptions may influence whether individuals attend to health promotion messages which aim to reduce deliberate tanning behaviours.

Conclusions: Individuals' prototype perceptions may influence not only sun protective behaviours but also attention to health information. Alignment with a 'prototype' that is incongruent with actual behavior, while holding negative perceptions toward the deliberate tanner may polarise individuals and inhibit behavioural change. Thus, current health promotion campaigns may not be applicable to North Queensland and other climates where comparatively few people deliberately tan.

Item ID: 24852
Item Type: Article (Abstract)
ISSN: 1532-7558
Keywords: health promotion, health behaviour, sun safety
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2013 00:52
FoR Codes: 17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1701 Psychology > 170106 Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology @ 20%
11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111712 Health Promotion @ 40%
17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1701 Psychology > 170199 Psychology not elsewhere classified @ 40%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920401 Behaviour and Health @ 60%
92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920412 Preventive Medicine @ 40%
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