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Increasing the Persuasiveness of Fear Appeals: The Effect of Arousal and Elaboration

  • Keller, Punam Anand
  • Block, Lauren Goldberg
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    We investigate the conditions under which messages that prompt low and high levels of fear are likely to be effective. Our premise is that when a low level of fear is ineffective, it is because there is insufficient elaboration of the harmful consequences of engaging in the destructive behavior. By contrast, when appeals arousing high levels of fear are ineffective, it is because too much elaboration on the harmful consequences interferes with processing of the recommended change in behavior. We find support for these expectations in the context of a communication advocating that people stop smoking. The elaboration-enhancing interventions used, self-reference and imagery processing, increased the persuasiveness of a low-fear appeal by prompting elaboration on the harmful consequences of smoking, whereas the use of two elaboration-suppressing interventions, reference to others and objective processing, increased the persuasiveness of a high-fear appeal by decreasing the extent to which consumers deny harmful consequences. Copyright 1996 by the University of Chicago.

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    Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Consumer Research.

    Volume (Year): 22 (1996)
    Issue (Month): 4 (March)
    Pages: 448-59

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    Handle: RePEc:ucp:jconrs:v:22:y:1996:i:4:p:448-59
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