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Risk perception normalization of sunlight exposure

Sílvia Luís 2, Gabriela Gaspar 1


Health organizations recommend avoiding direct sunlight exposure usually between 11 am and 5 pm. Nevertheless, it is common to see people on the beach during all day. This study focuses on understanding if sunlight exposure risk might be normalized. Risk normalization is a process by which people minimize a perceive threat to psychologically cope with it, frequently by using positive illusions. A pilot study (N = 44) suggests that the positive illusions most referred to explain exposition at unrecommended hours are the use of protective measures. To explore if knowledge of sunlight exposure risk and risk perception were negatively associated, illustrating risk normalization, a questionnaire was applied to a convenience sample (N = 276). This effect was found among those individuals that exposed themselves to sunlight between 12 am and 3 pm and reported a use of protective measures that was above the average. Furthermore, health literacy moderated the negative relation between knowledge and risk perception. This study suggests that it is important communicating that the use of protective measures during unrecommended hours does not guarantee protection, promoting health literacy, as it can minimize risk normalization, and understanding how information on risks and benefits interacts to influence risk perception.


Sunlight exposure; normalization of risk perception; positive illusions; health literacy

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