The use of fear appeals to communicate public health messages
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This paper provides an insight into the use of fear appeals to communicate a public health message. A fear appeal is a means of persuasion that threatens the audience with a negative, physical, psychological, and/or social consequence that is likely to occur if they engage in a particular behaviour. Specifically, this paper explores: the effectiveness of fear appeals; the impact gender and age have on the effectiveness of a fear appeals; and ethical concerns relating to fear appeal advertising. This study comprises a two stage data collection process: focus groups and depth interviews. Firstly, two focus groups were conducted. The participants were higher education students. The focus groups explored attitudes and opinions regarding the effectiveness of different styles of fear appeal. Secondly, four in-depth interviews were conducted with road safety experts to assess the effectiveness of fear appeal advertisements and to assess the feedback from the focus groups. The findings from this research indicate that appeal advertising is effective at creating awareness about road safety. However, fear appeals alone do not change the driving behaviours and attitudes of viewers. Fear appeal campaigns must be supported by enforcement if attitudes and behaviours are to change. Gender does not have a major impact on the impact of fear appeal messages. Both genders recognise that all individuals are subject to the consequences displayed in fear appeal advertisements. However, participants in this study report that they and their peers continue to drive whilst tired, distracted and using a mobile phone.
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