CEC Theses and Dissertations

Title

Perceptions of Online Risks

Date of Award

2007

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems (DISS)

Department

Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

Easwar Nyshadham

Committee Member

Amon Seagull

Committee Member

Ling Wang

Abstract

People mentally organize information, attitudes, and images about an environment in so called "cognitive maps." However, no cognitive maps of people's attitudes and perceptions related to online risks have yet been captured. This research initiative studied risk perceptions in the context of e-commerce and attempted to uncover a cognitive map of people's e-commerce-related risk perceptions and attitudes using the psychometric paradigm.

A study with 1,119 online shoppers was used to collect data. Analysis of data with regard to current and acceptable levels of risk and desired levels of regulation revealed that highly risky online hazards were not acceptable to consumers; in order for them to be acceptable, these hazards would need to be made safer. At the same time, less risky hazards were more or less acceptable to consumers. In addition, highly risky hazards would need to be regulated more heavily than less risky ones. The most and the least risky hazards were identified. In addition, factor analysis was conducted to identify ecommerce- related risk dimensions and produce a factor space diagram. The latter represented a "cognitive map" of people's e-commerce-related risk perceptions and attitudes. Results suggested that subjects distinguish risks using four dimensions: (a) dread/direness of consequences; (b) knowledge about risk and effects of consequences; (c) ability to control or avoid risks; and (d) willingness to pay to mitigate risks and familiarity with risks.

There are numerous potential benefits of this research. First of all, this dissertation produced a cognitive map of people's e-commerce-related risk perceptions and attitudes. The findings would help researchers to understand and predict people's reaction to risks posed by online hazards. Second, this study attempted to transfer a proven and popular methodology of risk perception research, the psychometric paradigm, to a new domain, ecommerce. Third, this study added empirical data regarding online risk perceptions to the existing body of the relevant academic research. Finally, the findings are also relevant to practitioners such as policy makers, management teams of e-commerce firms, and Web designers and developers.

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