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Title:Appealing to fear: a meta-analysis of fear appeal effectiveness and theories
Author(s):Tannenbaum, Melanie B
Director of Research:Albarracin, Dolores
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Albarracin, Dolores
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Kraus, Michael; Preston, Jesse; Carpenter, Nichelle; Vargas, Patrick T.
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):fear appeals
health communication
Abstract:The effects of fear appeals on attitudes, intentions, and behaviors were examined in a comprehensive meta-analysis. Studies were included if they contained a treatment group exposed to a fear appeal, a valid comparison group, a manipulation of depicted fear, a measure of attitudes, intentions, or behaviors concerning the targeted risk or recommended solution, and adequate statistics to calculate effect sizes. The meta-analysis included 127 papers (9% unpublished) yielding 248 independent samples (NTotal = 27,372) collected from diverse populations. Results showed a positive effect of fear appeals on attitudes, intentions, and behaviors, with the average effect on a composite index being fixed-effects d ̅ = 0.27. Moderation analyses based on prominent fear appeal theories showed that the effectiveness of fear appeals increased when the message depicted higher levels of fear, included efficacy statements, and depicted high susceptibility and severity. Messages were also more influential when the recommended behavior was one-time only, was self-esteem enhancing (hindering) and death was (was not) mentioned, and occurred at a delay when death was mentioned. Finally, fear appeals were more influential when the message’s audience was primarily female, from collectivist cultures, and young adult.
Issue Date:2015-04-21
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Melanie Tannenbaum
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-07-22
Date Deposited:May 2015

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