Brenda Mackie

Brenda Mackie's picture

Supervisors: Dr Donald Matheson, (Social & Political Sciences) University of Canterbury; Assoc Professor Sarb Johal, Joint Centre for Disaster Research, Massey University and Dr MichaelGrimshaw, (Social & Political Sciences), University of Canterbury.

Cry-wolf syndrome and “warning fatigue effect” are generally recognised terms for cynicism or apathy that can result from being ‘over-warned’.  It has been anecdotally observed in disciplines of health, meteorology, defence and military, emergency and disaster management.

There is an assumption that not only does warning fatigue exist, but that it also has a negative impact on warning responses.

Warning fatigue poses a communications challenge where dissemination of “high alarm” messages that do not eventuate in an event of corresponding magnitude can lead to reduced vigilance and preparation, despite the very real nature of the threat. Emergency managers have been known to downplay the severity of a potential disaster, or hesitate to warn appropriately because they are worried that the public will be affected by warning fatigue. Yet (to date) there has been minimal empirical research that definitively validates, quantifies or describes this phenomenon.

The theoretical foundations for this project included a social constructionist epistemology and qualitative and quantitative methodologies, encompassing interviews, a survey and discourse, content and thematic analyses.

The aim of Brenda’s research was to provide agencies with ways to engage with communities by identifying issues associated with warnings processes and just as importantly, identify how to frame and communicate hazard warnings in ways that reduce the risk of warning fatigue and community complacency.

Publications authored

Gray, L.; Mackie, B.; MacDonald, C.; Paton, D.; Johnston, D. M.; Johal, S.; Cunningham, C.;Wenn, J.; Baker, M. (2011). Dynamics of an effective risk communication campaign for Influenza A (H1N1), GNS Science Report, 2011/04., p.47

Mackie, B. (2010).  An annotated bibliography of recent research on pandemic preparedness, perceptions of risk and motivations for behaviour change, GNS Science Report, 2010/40, p. 24

Mackie, B  (2009). Health Risk Communication: Reporting of Avian Influenza in New Zealand Newspapers 2002-2008. In T. Flew (Ed.) Communication, Creativity and Global Citizenship: Refereed Proceedings of the Australian and New Zealand Communications Association Annual Conference, Brisbane, July 8-10. ISBN 987-1-74107-275-4

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