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Threat appeals in health communication: messages that elicit fear and enhance perceived efficacy positively impact on young male drivers

Carey, RN; Sarma, KM; (2016) Threat appeals in health communication: messages that elicit fear and enhance perceived efficacy positively impact on young male drivers. BMC Public Health , 16 , Article 645. 10.1186/s12889-016-3227-2. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Health communications often present graphic, threat-based representations of the potential consequences of health-risk behaviours. These 'threat appeals' feature prominently in public health campaigns, but their use is controversial, with studies investigating their efficacy reporting inconsistent, and often negative, findings. This research examined the impact of a threat-based road safety advertisement on the driving behaviour of young male drivers. METHODS: To address limitations of previous research, we first identified a road safety advertisement that objectively and subjectively elicited fear using physiological and subjective measures. Study 1 (n = 62) examined the effect of this advertisement, combined with a manipulation designed to increase perceived efficacy, on speed choice. Study 2 (n = 81) investigated whether a state emotion, anger, impacts on the effectiveness of the advertisement in changing four distinct driving behaviours. Both studies examined short-term effects only. RESULTS: Study 1 findings indicated that a high threat message, when combined with high perceived efficacy, can lead to a decrease in speed choice. Study 2 results suggested that increased levels of state anger may counteract the potential value of combining fear-arousing threats and efficacy-building messages. CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest that threat-based road safety communications that target affective (fear) and cognitive (perceived efficacy) mechanisms can positively affect driving behaviours. State emotions, such as anger, may negatively impact on the effectiveness of the message. Taken together, these findings provide additional support for the use of efficacy-building messages in threat-based communications, but highlight the need for further research into the complex array of affective influences on driving.

Type: Article
Title: Threat appeals in health communication: messages that elicit fear and enhance perceived efficacy positively impact on young male drivers
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s12889-016-3227-2
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12889-016-3227-2
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2016 The Author(s). Open Access: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Keywords: Health communications; Road safety; Driving behaviour; Perceived efficacy
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1517289
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