Review of Communication Research

HEALTH COMMUNICATION                                                                                                 

Title & Authors

2015 Distinguished Article Award of NCA's Communication and Social Cognition Division

THREAT, FEAR, AND PERSUASION: REVIEW AND CRITIQUE OF QUESTIONS ABOUT FUNCTIONAL FORM

Lijiang Shen (University of Georgia, GA, USA)

James Price Dillard (Pennsylvania State University, PA, USA)

Highlights

• Provides background on the fear/threat appeals literature.

• Reviews theoretical perspectives that predict an effect for fear on persuasion.

• Illustrates differences in between- and within-person associations between fear and persuasion.

• Delineates four necessary conditions for curvilinear effects in within-person fear-persuasion data.

• Tests for curvilinearity in an existing data set and finds that it predicts persuasion.

• Shows that individual differences in fear of needles predict different fear-response curves to a threat appeal that urges recipients to obtain a flu vaccination.

• Concludes that the research literature on threat appeals has not adequately addressed the fundamental issue of functional form.

Abstract

Theories of threat appeals have been rightly concerned with the form of the relationship between fear and persuasion: Linear or curvilinear. They have not, however, clearly distinguished the question as a between- or within-persons phenomenon. In fact, the literature often treats these two perspectives as if they were interchangeable. We show that between- versus within-person questions about functional form are distinct from one another. Previous research, which is the product of between-persons designs, shows a linear relationship between fear and persuasion. Between-persons studies cannot address the question of how changes in fear over time produce persuasion. Consequently, a major piece of the fear appeals-persuasion puzzle may have been overlooked. Reanalysis of an existing data set shows curvilinearity of fear in within-persons data and demonstrates that the curve predicts persuasion. Audience segmentation reveals different curves for different groups as well as differential associations between those curves and persuasion. Overall, the argument and the empirical results suggest that a great deal less is known about fear appeals than it is currently believed.

Content

FEAR APPEALS: CONTENT AND STRUCTURE

TERMINOLOGY

PERSPECTIVES ON FEAR AND PERSUASION

The Drive Model

The Parallel Response Model

The Extended Parallel Process Model

CURRENT KNOWLEDGE: RESULTS OF THE META-ANALYSES RESEARCH DESIGNS AND THE LIMITS OF INFERENCE

Figure 1: Linear and Curvilinear Associations Between Fear and Persuasion in Between-Subjects Data

Figure 2: Hypothetical Message Effects on Fear in Within-Subjects Data

SUMMARY OF THE ARGUMENT RESEARCH DESIGNS FOR THE DYNAMIC PROPERTIES OF FEAR

Figure 3: Results of Dillard and Anderson (2004): Vaccination message.

Figure 4: Results of Rossiter and Thornton (2004): Trike message

TESTING FOR THE EFFECT OF CURVILINEARITY IN DYNAMIC DATA

Figure 5: Results of Rossiter and Thornton (2004): Pizza message

Figure 6: Re-analysis of the Dillard and Anderson (2004) Data Using Latent Growth Curve Modeling

AN EMPIRICAL EXAMPLE

Figure 7: Latent Estimates of Change in Message-Inducing Fear Among Persons High and Low in Fear of Needles

IMPLICATIONS OF INTRA-INDIVIDUAL CURVILINEARITY

SUMMARY

REFERENCES

APPENDIX A: DETAILS OF THE RE-ANALYSIS OF THE DILLARD AND ANDERSON (2004) DATA

Measures

Method of Analysis

Input and Model Specifications

Criteria for Model Evaluation

RESULTS

The Linear Growth Model

The Quadratic Growth Model

Table A. Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations

COPYRIGHTS AND REPOSITORIES

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Threat, Fear, and Persuasion: Review and Critique of Questions About Functional Form

Lijiang Shen & James Price Dillard

 

Keywords: drive model; parallel processing; EPPM; threat; fear; persuasion; latent growth curve modeling; health; influenza

  Filesize 1.06 MB Download 2409

 

How to cite

Shen, L., & Dillard, J. P. (2014). Threat, Fear, and Persuasion: Review and Critique of Questions About Functional Form. Review of Communication Research, 2(1), 94-114. doi: 10.12840/issn.2255-4165.2014.02.01.004

Keywords

drive model, parallel processing, EPPM, threat, fear, persuasion, latent growth curve modeling, health, influenza

Repositories

Repositories where you can find this article: Internet Archive (Community Texts) @ https://archive.org/details/texts

Academia.edu @ http://independent.academia.edu/ReviewofCommunicationResearch

Social Science Open Access Repository @ http://www.ssoar.info/en/home.html

About the Authors

Lijiang Shen (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2005) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Georgia (now at Pennsylvania State University: http://cas.la.psu.edu/people/lus32)

 

James Price Dillard (Ph.D., Michigan State University, 1983) is a Liberal Arts Research Professor in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at Pennsylvania State University (http://cas.la.psu.edu/people/jpd16) .

 

2015 Distinguished Article Award of NCA's Communication and Social Cognition Division
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