The multiple affective outcomes of AIDS PSAs: Fear appeals do more than scare people

James Price Dillard, Courtney A. Plotnick, Linda C. Godbold, Vicki S. Freimuth, Timothy Edgar

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241 Scopus citations


The widespread use of fear appeals in health communication campaigns seems to reflect the existence of a folk theory that predicts message acceptance as a function of induced fright. Whereas there is empirical evidence consistent with that position, recent research also shows that other affects may influence message acceptance as well. Two studies were conducted to determine the extent to which a sample of public service announcements (PSAs) on the topic of AIDS/HIV evoked affective responses, the degree to which those affects predicted message acceptance, and the mechanism by which feelings, including fear, operate on message acceptance. Results showed that a variety of affects were induced by the PSAs, most of which did predict message acceptance. However, considerable variation was observed in both sign and magnitude of the associations. As for mechanism, the data suggested that the effects of affect on message acceptance were mediated by heuristic rather than systematic message processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-72
Number of pages29
JournalCommunication Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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