Fear Appeals and Hand Washing

Fear Appeals and Hand Washing - Leong 1 Com 322 Besel June...

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Leong 1 Com 322 Besel June 11, 2010 Fear Appeals and Hand Washing Introduction The study of message factors are an important aspect of persuasion and can be divided into three different categories: message structure, message content, and sequential- request strategies. The message structure is concerned with the order of arguments in a message, if the message’s conclusion should be stated, and the degree of specificity in relation to the message (O’ Keefe 215). Some of the variables that are associated with message content and have been more thoroughly investigated and have more empirical evidence are one-sided versus two-sided messages, discrepancy, and fear appeals. In relationship to the effectiveness of sequential-request strategies there are two different techniques that can be used: foot-in-the-door and door-in-the-face (O’ Keefe). Foot-in-the- door strategy utilizes the idea of a small request and then asks for a larger request. Door- in-the-face technique is to ask for something so large, the receiver will say no, but then say yes to the second, smaller request. The combination of message structure, message content, and sequential-request strategies all contribute to the effectiveness of the persuasive message. The technique that can be seen most frequently in the content of the message is fear appeals, this technique is also the most extensively studied. The basis behind fear appeals is, “If you don’t do what I recommend, then these terrible, fearful consequences will befall
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2 you,” (O’Keefe 224). There are two aspects in variation of fear appeals, which can be confused when analyzing the effects of fear appeals; the first is how strong or weak (high vs. low) the message is or how scary or tame the message is. This kind of fear appeal deals with defining fear appeal variations but does not indicate arousal of fear in the audience. The second variation is the degree of fear aroused from the audience of the fear appeal. “This way of defining fear appeal variations makes no reference to the intrinsic characteristics of the message but instead uses the degree of aroused fear as the index for fear appeal variations,” (O’ Keefe 224). It is important to establish which of the variations are present when analyzing the effect of fear appeals. Extensive research has been done concerning fear appeals and can be stated in four main conclusions. First, is that the messages with scarier contents do arouse greater fear. Second, is that messages with a stronger fear appeal are more persuasive then those with a weaker fear appeal. The third observation is related to the previous two, and says that messages that arouse more fear are more persuasive. The final observation is that there is little evidence of any curvilinearity in these relationships (O’ Keefe 225). This observation is based on the idea that if the persuader “goes too far” in their fear appeal, the message will not be effective. The research shows, however, that this is not the case. These four
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Fear Appeals and Hand Washing - Leong 1 Com 322 Besel June...

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