Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The False Belief in Fear Appeals: Ignoring Theory and Misinterpreting Evidence

Ignoring Theory and Misinterpreting Evidence: The False Belief in Fear Appeals. Gerjo Kok, Gjalt-Jorn Ygram Peters, Loes T. E. Kessels, Gill A. ten Hoor & Robert A. C. Ruiter. Health Psychology Review,

Abstract: Use of fear appeals assumes that when people are emotionally confronted with the negative effects of their behavior they will change that behavior. That reasoning is simple and intuitive, but only true under specific, rare circumstances. Risk-perception theories predict that if people will experience a threat, they want to counter that threat. However, how they do so is determined by their coping efficacy level: if efficacy is high, they may change their behavior in the suggested direction; if efficacy is low, they react defensively. Research on fear appeals should be methodologically sound, comparing a threatening to a non-threatening intervention under high and low efficacy levels, random assignment, and measuring behavior as outcome. We critically review extant empirical evidence and conclude that it does not support positive effects of fear appeals. Nonetheless, their use persists, and is even promoted by health psychology researchers, causing scientific insights to be ignored or misinterpreted.

Keywords: Fear appeals, graphic health warnings, threatening communication, Extended Parallel Process Model, review

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