When Defensive Reactions Contribute to the Acceptance of Fear-Arousing Communications
Literature on fear-arousing communications has led to divergent conclusions. On the one hand, studies have shown that fear increases attitude change via systematic processing. On the other hand, it has been observed that arousing fear provokes defense-motivated reactions. Nevertheless, few studies have embedded measures of persuasion, information processing, and defensiveness all at once. Consequently, we conducted an experiment to assess the effects of fear-arousal on these three outcomes in order to clarify this ambiguous issue. The participants were instructed to watch a public service announcement video with two conditions of fear. Our results showed that an increase of fear generated a more positive attitude, as well as systematic processing but, surprisingly, more defensive reactions. Further analyses revealed a mediating effect of these reactions between fear and attitude. These results suggest an alternative pathway to understand the effects of fear-appeals, emphasizing the positive influence of defensive responses.
KeywordsFear arousal Attitude Information processing Defensive reactions
Compliance with Ethical Standards
The author(s) received no funding for the present research.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.
Conflict of Interest
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest.
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