ARSRPE Conference Paper Database

The psychology of fear appeals re-visited

Elliott, Barry

Strategy & Theory


This paper re-visits the author?s earlier review "Issues in the Use of Threat Appeals: An up-to-date Review of Research in the Last Decade" presented at the 3rd International Injury Prevention Conference, 1996, Melbourne.

The issue as to whether or not to use threat or fear campaigns is ever present and most recently has extended to young people and anti smoking campaigns (April issue of the Journal of Marketing).

The paper reviews the literature since 1996 by re-examining the five key conclusions of the first review. Fear arousal may have both inhibiting and facilitating effects and can lead to avoidant coping (eg ignoring) mechanisms. As at 2003 it can be concluded that campaigns should use fear with caution. Personal relevance and efficacy are more important than severity of outcomes in encouraging action.

The issue of gender differences appears to be in need of further investigation and a warning is sounded regarding researching alternative message appeals.