Toward a framework for understanding lay public's comprehension of disaster and bioterrorism information

J Biomed Inform. 2005 Aug;38(4):331-44. doi: 10.1016/j.jbi.2005.05.001.


In the last decade, we have witnessed a significant increase in disaster preparedness and crisis communication efforts. This stands in sharp contrast with paucity of research that deals with the public's comprehension of disaster information and related decision-making. The objective of this paper is to outline a theoretical and methodological framework for research on lay comprehension of crisis information. The proposed framework integrates two bodies of research: (1) cognitive science literature on comprehension and decision-making and (2) studies of the effects of anxiety on performance. The paper reviews selected works and methods from both fields, discussing how cognitive perspective could be extended to include emotional factors. We also discuss how further research integrating the proposed framework with public health communication perspective could: (1) provide insights for developing effective disaster communication and (2) inform the development of technological support for disaster communication and for education of lay people and health professionals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bioterrorism*
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Disaster Planning
  • Disasters*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Education
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Information Dissemination / methods
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / methods*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Research Design*