The impact of fear versus state empathy on persuasion and social stigma

Lulu Peng, Lijiang Shen, Rachel Reymann Vanderbilt, Youllee Kim, Kasey Ann Foley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The study investigated the impact of fear and state empathy on persuasion and social stigma. Eighteen professionally produced public service announcements (PSAs) were employed as stimuli in a 2 (message topic: antidrug vs. safe driving) × 3 (message type: empathy vs. fear vs. control) × 3 (messages) mixed-design experiment. Participants (N = 406) were randomly assigned to one of the 6 cells and watched the 3 videos in that condition. Multilevel structural equation modeling analyses showed that fear and state empathy both had positive direct effects on persuasion. Fear led to more affective stigma, whereas state empathy reduced cognitive stigma. Fear also resulted in stronger reactance which decreased persuasion; conversely, empathy mitigated reactance, hence had a positive indirect effect on persuasion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalMedia Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Applied Psychology


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