Publication details [#63332]

Rhodes, Nancy. 2017. Fear-Appeal Messages: Message Processing and Affective Attitudes. Communication Research 44 (7) : 952–975.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Place, Publisher
SAGE Publications


Theories of fear appeals propose that fear-provoking messages can be effective, but public service announcements (PSAs) that underscore fear do not always lead to wanted change in behavior. To better grasp how fear-provoking PSAs are processed, an experiment exploring the effects of exposure to safe-driving messages is reported. College students (N = 108) considered PSAs of differing message sensation value (MSV). Results pointed out that messages with medium MSV ended in intentions to drive more slowly than messages with low or high MSV. Measures of affective attitudes pointed out that medium MSV messages ended in fast driving being rated as less fun and exciting than those of either high or low MSV. These affective evaluations moderated the impact of message exposure on driving intention. Message derogation was not linked to message intensity. Production of message-linked thoughts declined, and emotional thoughts raised with message intensity. This diminution in processing of message content proposed a restricted capacity explanation for the effect of very intense fear appeals.