BRAKE Research

BRAKE Research

Post Categories

School Information
Rob Duncan's Blog

The Influence of Fear Arousal and Perceived Efficacy on the Acceptance and Rejection of Road Safety Advertising Messages

Fear Arousal

This paper examines the effects of fear arousal and perceived efficacy on the acceptance and rejection of road safety advertising messages that are typical in Australia and New Zealand

Our results suggest that the level of fear arousal could be lowered without a significant effect on the message acceptance rates but could result in a lower rate of message rejection. Our results also suggest that the inclusion of explicit coping strategies in the road safety messages has a significant positive effect on message acceptance.

It is recognised that road safety campaigns often utilise a combination of advertisements featuring varying levels of threat and efficacy. Hence, we recommend that current campaigns be reviewed to assess the expected amount of fear aroused and to ensure that a variety of coping behaviours or strategies are explicitly incorporated into the advertisements.

Over the last three decades, road safety advertisements, especially those televised in Australia and New Zealand, have increasingly relied on the appeal to the emotion of fear to deliver the message. However, despite more than fifty years of research on the use of fear-based publicity campaigns, an unequivocal answer concerning their effectiveness is not possible. Nevertheless, many government agencies around the world continue to believe in and employ fear-based publicity campaigns, particularly in social marketing of public health.

One of the most frequently debated issues in fear-based publicity campaigns involves the relationship between the level of fear invoked by a communication and the degree of attitude and behaviour change induced in the audience.

Implicit in the use of fear appeals is the assumption that when emotional tension is aroused, the audience will become more highly motivated to accept the recommendations advocated by the communicator. More importantly, it is assumed that the higher the level of fear aroused, the greater will be the persuasiveness of the communication.

Several early studies, however, challenged these assumptions and suggested instead that the relationship between fear arousal and persuasiveness was in fact negative, with a relatively low degree of fear arousal being optimal. Subsequent studies, however, generally found a positive relationship between fear and persuasion Niles.

These contrasting results led several researchers to hypothesize that the relationship between fear level and persuasion has an inverted-U shape. Since the inverted-U hypothesis is very difficult to test or refute [4], many researchers have instead concentrated on discovering other contributing factors that may influence the relationship.

One common explanation for the differing results is that high fear appeals elicit two common responses from the audience: fear control and danger control. Leventhal developed the Parallel Response Model (PRM) to extend the Fear Drive Model by relaxing the assumption that emotional arousal was an antecedent of adaptive behaviour. Instead, it stressed the correlational nature of the two elements of the model and introduced the fear-control process (maladaptive behaviour or message rejection) that may be independent from the danger control process (adaptive behaviour or message acceptance).