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The impact of ignorance and bias on information security protection motivation: a case of e-waste handling

Hao Chen (School of Business, Qingdao University, Qingdao, China)
Yufei Yuan (DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Article publication date: 30 December 2022

Issue publication date: 27 November 2023




Protection motivation theory (PMT) explains that the intention to cope with information security risks is based on informed threat and coping appraisals. However, people cannot always make appropriate assessments due to possible ignorance and cognitive biases. This study proposes a research model that introduces four antecedent factors from ignorance and bias perspectives into the PMT model and empirically tests this model with data from a survey of electronic waste (e-waste) handling.


The data collected from 356 Chinese samples are analyzed via structural equation modeling (SEM).


The results revealed that for threat appraisal, optimistic bias leads to a lower perception of risks. However, factual ignorance (lack of knowledge of risks) does not significantly affect the perceived threat. For coping appraisal, practical ignorance (lack of knowledge of coping with risks) leads to low response efficacy and self-efficacy and high perceptions of coping cost, but the illusion of control overestimates response efficacy and self-efficacy.


First, this study addresses a new type of information security problem in e-waste handling. Second, this study extends the PMT model by exploring the roles of ignorance and bias as antecedents. Finally, the authors reinvestigate the basic constructs of PMT to identify how rational threat and coping assessments affect user intentions to cope with data security risks.



This study was funded by the Humanities and Social Science Fund of the Ministry of Education of China (No. 20YJC630003), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (No. 2021T140353; No. 2021M691688), and the Postdoctoral Science Foundation in Qingdao city in China.


Chen, H. and Yuan, Y. (2023), "The impact of ignorance and bias on information security protection motivation: a case of e-waste handling", Internet Research, Vol. 33 No. 6, pp. 2244-2275.



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