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Exploring sex differences in information needs, media dependencies, and attention allocation during Hurricane Dorian

Kenneth A. Lachlan, PhD, Patric Spence, PhD, Emily Hutter, MA, Christine Gilbert, MA


In September 2019, Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas and the southeast United States, resulting in widespread damage and loss of life. Drawing from previous crisis communication research on both natural and man-made disasters, this study examines information seeking and medium preferences, attention allocation, and sex differences in these outcomes. Extant literature has found differences between men and women in terms of the volume and types of information wanted during a crisis event, as well as preferences for different media in times of crisis. This literature has yet to examine the degree to which attention allocation may be related to these outcomes. To address these issues in a naturalistic context, a large-scale survey was targeted at residents of states impacted by Hurricane Dorian. Results are consistent with previous research indicating that females engaged in more overall information seeking and sought more information seeking related to tangible goals. Females found interactive media (Internet and social media) to be more useful than males. Evidence was not detected concerning sex differences in the way people found out about the storm and sex differences in attention allocation detected. Results suggested small effects for perceived usefulness of television and Internet on attention allocation for both men and women. Implications for emergency management personnel and public officials are discussed.



disaster management, information needs, media dependency

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