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)
• 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.
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.
FEAR APPEALS: CONTENT AND STRUCTURE
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
APPENDIX A: DETAILS OF THE RE-ANALYSIS OF THE DILLARD AND ANDERSON (2004) DATA
Method of Analysis
Input and Model Specifications
Criteria for Model Evaluation
The Linear Growth Model
The Quadratic Growth Model
Table A. Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations
COPYRIGHTS AND REPOSITORIES
Lijiang Shen & James Price Dillard
Keywords: drive model; parallel processing; EPPM; threat; fear; persuasion; latent growth curve modeling; health; influenza
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
drive model, parallel processing, EPPM, threat, fear, persuasion, latent growth curve modeling, health, influenza
Repositories where you can find this article: Internet Archive (Community Texts) @ https://archive.org/details/texts
Social Science Open Access Repository @ http://www.ssoar.info/en/home.html
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) .