How the Perceived Economic Risk of Workplace AI Affects Sharing of Risk Information

Artificial intelligence (AI) is projected to reshape the global economy. Automation technology is already permeating a broad spectrum of industries worldwide. Because of this, legislation has been enacted in Europe and the United States regulating the use of AI to ensure trustworthy use in both public and private sectors. As a result, much is known about the economic risks of AI at the expert and policy level.

One area of inquiry that has been given less attention is assessing how the presentation of AI in the workforce affects people’s perceptions about the technology. To better understand the messaging effects on the public, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Public Relations Associate Professor Jay Hmielowski and colleagues set out to examine how different messages could affect people’s perceptions of this technology. Specifically, they set out to examine whether presenting AI’s effects on the economy as personally affecting the reader or affecting society as a whole, could influence how personally relevant the issue felt for people, their perceived economic risks associated with AI, and whether they would share the content with others.

In their study, the authors first set out to examine whether a story that stated that the economic effects of AI would affect “your income” or “economies everywhere” would lead people to feel like this issue is more relevant to them personally. Their results revealed that stories focused on AI affecting the broader economy ended up making the issue of AI feel more relevant to them.

Establishing that the societal message resulted in people feeling that AI was more relevant to their daily lives, the authors then examined whether thinking this issue felt personally relevant to them would lead people to reporting higher levels of economic risks tied to the issue of AI. Their study revealed this was the case. Indeed, individuals who believed that AI was a more personally relevant issue to them personally were more likely to report that there were greater economic risks tied to AI.

Finally, they set out to assess whether these higher levels of economic risks would result in people being more likely to share this story with others. In their study, they found that people who reported higher levels of economic risks related to AI were then more likely to share this story with other people.

In the end, the study found that messages that outlined the societal effects of AI on the economy led people to report that the economic effects were personally relevant to them. This feeling of relevance resulted in people being more concerned about the economic effects of AI. These concerns about the economic effects then resulted in people being more willing to share the story with others.

 The original research paper, “The Indirect Effects of Episodic-Thematic Framing on Information Sharing About Economic Threat of Artificial Intelligence,” appeared online in Communication Studies on Sept. 13, 2022.

 Authors: Alex W. Kirkpatrick, Washington State University; Jay D. Hmielowski, University of Florida; and Amanda D. Boyd; Washington State University

This summary was written by Marie Morganelli, Ph.D.

Posted: October 23, 2022
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