Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Warkentin, Merrill

Committee Member

Marett, Kent

Committee Member

Otondo, Robert F.

Committee Member

Collier, Joel E.

Committee Member

Luo, Xin (Robert)

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Campus Access Only


Business Administration - Business Information Systems

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Business


Department of Management and Information Systems


How to design effective persuasive information security messages to motivate individuals’ engagement in recommended protective security behaviors has become a top priority in the information security field. Although fear appeals have been shown to be an effective means to influence individuals’ security-related protective behaviors, recent information security research has called for a deeper understanding of recipients’ information processing of messages to design effective fear appeals. Previous IS security research has explored two individuals’ information processing routes of security messages, the central route, and the peripheral route, and has investigated the impacts of central variables, perceived argument quality, and peripheral variables, perceived source credibility, on individuals’ security protective behaviors. However, it is not clear how personal disposition influences the process. Drawing on the elaboration likelihood model (ELM), this dissertation identifies need for cognition as an important factor that influences employees’ information processing (Study 1). Results show that need for cognition significantly moderates the relationship between perceived security argument quality and individuals’ behavioral intention. In addition, although most of the previous research has emphasized the importance of perceived argument quality (the central route) in influencing individuals’ security protective behaviors, the understanding of how to improve individuals’ perception of argument quality is far from conclusive. Thus this dissertation takes the view that the preference matching between message characteristics and recipients’ preference is one of the key mechanisms that increase individuals’ perceived security argument quality and behavioral intention. In particular, I conducted a multi-group experiment design to examine how preference matching, the matching between the rhetoric of a security message and recipients’ preferences for rhetoric (Study 2), influences individuals’ perception of security argument quality and behavioral intention to adopt the recommended security behavior. I found that preference matching significantly influences perceived argument quality and behavioral intention. The results have important theoretical and practical implications for designing effective information security messages to improve information security management in both personal and work environments