Threat Appeals: The Fear–Persuasion Relationship is Linear and Curvilinear

James Price Dillard, Ruobing Li, Yan Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Drive theory may be seen as the first scientific theory of health and risk communication. However, its prediction of a curvilinear association between fear and persuasion is generally held to be incorrect. A close rereading of Hovland et al. reveals that within- and between-persons processes were conflated. Using a message that advocated obtaining a screening for colonoscopy, this study (N = 259) tested both forms of the inverted-U hypothesis. In the between-persons data, analyses revealed a linear effect that was consistent with earlier investigations. However, the data showed an inverted-U relationship in within-persons data. Hence, the relationship between fear and persuasion is linear or curvilinear depending on the level of analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1358-1367
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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