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Fear on the Radio: Cognitive and emotional responses to high-fear high-imagery messages

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Abstract:

How does the level of imagery in high fear radio public service announcements affect cognitive and emotional processing of the message? A significant body of research has explored information processing of high fear messages (i.e. LaTour & Pitts, 1989; Mewborn & Rogers, 1979; Rogers, 1983; Witte, 1992) but none of the research has addressed the role production features like imagery play in information processing of the message. Boster and Mongeau (1984) suggested, at the end of their meta-analysis of studies of fear-arousing messages, that "it is not clear exactly what features of a persuasive message are fear arousing" (p. 370). They also argue that "the manipulation of fear and the manipulations of other relevant independent variables are often confounded" (p. 366). The purpose of this study is to more clearly manipulate fear by separating a fearful topic from the imagery level used in messages on the topic. More specifically, this study will examine how imagery in high-fear radio public service announcements affects attention, arousal and negative emotional valence.
Previous research has found that imagery results in a greater focus of attention to internal mental processes as evidenced by faster heart rate during exposure to high-imagery radio messages compared to low-imagery messages (author cite). Radio messages with negative emotional valence have been found to result in greater attention paid externally to the message as evidenced by slower heart rate during negative compared to positive messages (author cite). Researchers have not investigated whether during high-imagery, high-fear messages listeners focus attention internally to the process of mental imagery or externally on the message. In an exploratory study this author found participants heart rate to be slower during exposure to high-imagery, high-fear messages compared to low-imagery, high-fear messages suggesting that participants were primarily allocating attention externally to the message. This study will attempt to replicate the exploratory study. The following hypothesis will be tested:
H1: Heart rate will be slower during exposure to high-imagery, high-fear messages compared to low-imagery, high-fear messages.
If fear appeal interferes with the ability to focus attention internally to generating mental images during exposure to high-imagery messages it is possible that after exposure, participants will be able to allocate attention to generating mental images when cognitive resources are no longer needed to process the incoming message. Thus, if people are instructed to think about the message, they should experience greater mental imagery while thinking about high-imagery, high-fear messages compared to low-imagery, high-fear messages. This leads to the following hypothesis:
H2: Heart rate will be faster for high-imagery, high-fear messages compared to low-imagery, high-fear messages after exposure when participants are instructed to think about a message.
Given that negative messages result in attention being allocated externally to the message it could be that the experience of negative emotion is what interferes with the ability to allocate attention internally to mental imagery. Previous research has shown that negative emotion can be measured with facial EMG by measuring activity over the Corrugator muscle (Eckman, 1993). This study will explore the possibility that negative emotion interferes mental imagery during exposure by testing the following hypothesis:
H3: Corrugator muscle activity will be greater during exposure to high-imagery, high-fear messages compared to low-imagery, high-fear messages.
Previous research has also demonstrated that both negative emotion and imagery are production features that intensify arousal (Lang, Dhillon & Dong, 1995; author cite) as evidenced by increased skin conductance. This leads to a final hypothesis:
H4: Skin conductance will be greater during exposure to high-imagery, high-fear messages compared to low-imagery, high-fear messages.
Method
Independent Variable
Imagery
Imagery is conceptually defined as production features of radio that engage listeners in imagery processing. According to previous research sound effects and descriptive wording increase the imagery level of a radio announcement (Miller & Marks, 1997). Imagery will be manipulated through the presence of sound effects and descriptive wording in the copy.
Dependent Variables
Attention
Attention is mental effort put into processing the radio announcements. Heart rate will be obtained as a measure of attention. Participants' heart rate will be measured for a five second baseline prior to onset of each message, time-locked to exposure to each message and for a 30 second post-exposure period during which participants will be instructed to think about the message they just listened to. Heart rate will be collected as milliseconds between beats and converted to beats per minute.
Emotional Valence
Emotional valence is a dimension of emotion that has to do with how positive or negative a person feels. Negative emotional valence will be measured in this study through facial EMG. Corrugator muscle activity will be measured for a five second baseline prior to onset of each message, time-locked to exposure to each message and for a 30 second post-exposure period during which participants will be instructed to think about the message they just listened to. Self-reported emotional valence will also be obtained by having participants complete the SAM (self-assessment mannequin) scale (Lang, Greenwald, Bradley & Hamm, 1993).
Arousal
Arousal is a dimension of emotion that reflects how excited our calm a person feels. Arousal will be measured by obtaining participants' skin conductance. Skin conductance will be measured for a five second baseline prior to onset of each message, time-locked to exposure to each message and for a 30 second post-exposure period during which participants will be instructed to think about the message they just listened to. Self-reported arousal will also be obtained by having participants complete the SAM (self-assessment mannequin) scale (Lang, Greenwald, Bradley & Hamm, 1993).
Design
This experiment will use a 2 (Imagery) X 3 (Message Topic) X 3 (Order) repeated measures mixed model design. Imagery and Message Topic are within subjects variable. The messages will be recorded in three different orders and participants will be randomly assigned to listen to one of the orders.
Stimuli
A survey conducted in Fall 2001 of 95 undergraduates at a large northwestern university indicated that pregnancy, contracting a sexually transmitted disease and being the victim of a drunk driver are high fear issues. A 60 second high imagery and low imagery message was produced for each of the high fear message topics. The high imagery messages featured a storyline with descriptive wording and sound effects. The low imagery messages featured college students talking about why they fear each topic. Six low fear messages will also be included as stimuli in order to keep participants from becoming overly sensitized to fear appeal. These low fear messages were obtained from the Ad Council and have been pre-tested to ensure they are indeed low fear.
Procedure
Participants will be forty undergraduate students enrolled in Communication courses at a large northwestern university. Participants will complete the experiment one at a time in a psychophysiology lab. Informed consent will be obtained and then participants will be prepped for the collection of physiological data. All instructions for the experiment will be recorded onto audio tape and played for participants. Instructions for completing the self-report measures will be played followed by instructions for the post-exposure task. For this task participants will be told that after each message they will see a cue on the screen that instructs them to "please sit still and think about the message you just heard" and then will be prompted to complete the self-report measures. Participants will be given the opportunity to ask questions and then will listen to each radio message. After completing self-report measures for the last message participants will be thanked and dismissed.
Time table
Data for this experiment will be collected by the end of February 2002. Data analysis will be completed by the end of March 2002. References

Boster, F.J., & Mongeau, P. (1984). Fear-arousing persuasive messages. In R.N. Bostrom & B.H. Westley (Eds.) Communication Yearbook 8. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 330-375.

Ekman, P. (1993). Facial expression and emotion. American Psychologist, 48 (4), 384-392.

Lang, A., Dhillon, K. & Dong, Q. (1995). The effects of emotional arousal and valence on television viewers' cognitive capacity and memory. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 39, 313-327.

Lang, P.J., Greenwald, M., Bradley, M.M., & Hamm, A.O. (1993). Looking at pictures: Evaluative, facial, visceral, and behavioral responses. Psychophysiology, 30, 261-273.

LaTour, M.S., & Pitts, R.E. (1989). Using fear appeals in advertising for AIDS prevention in the college-age population. Journal of Health Care Marketing, 9(3), 5-14.

Mewborn, C.R., & Rogers, R.W. (1979). Effects of threatening and reassuring components of fear appeals on physiological; and verbal measures of emotion and attitudes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 15, 242-253.

Miller, D. W., & Marks, L.J. (1997). The effects of imagery evoking radio advertising strategies on affective responses. Psychology and Marketing, 14 (4), 337-360.

Rogers, R.W. (1983). Cognitive and physiological processes in fear appeals and attitude change: A revised theory of protection motivation. In J.T. Cacioppo & R.E. Petty (Eds.) Social psychophysiology: A sourcebook. London: The Guildford Press, 153-176.

Witte, K. (1992). Putting the fear back into fear appeals: The extended parallel process model. Communication Monographs, 59, 329-349.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

messag (55), imageri (39), fear (37), high (31), particip (20), emot (17), exposur (16), high-fear (14), measur (13), attent (12), low (12), negat (10), process (10), arous (10), radio (10), high-imageri (10), instruct (9), compar (8), mental (8), rate (8), studi (8),

Author's Keywords:

emotion, cognition, radio
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MLA Citation:

Bolls, Paul., Mendelson, Andrew. and Popeski, Wayne. "Fear on the Radio: Cognitive and emotional responses to high-fear high-imagery messages" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott Hotel, San Diego, CA, May 27, 2003 <Not Available>. 2009-05-26 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p111381_index.html>

APA Citation:

Bolls, P. , Mendelson, A. and Popeski, W. , 2003-05-27 "Fear on the Radio: Cognitive and emotional responses to high-fear high-imagery messages" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott Hotel, San Diego, CA Online <.PDF>. 2009-05-26 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p111381_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: How does the level of imagery in high fear radio public service announcements affect cognitive and emotional processing of the message? A significant body of research has explored information processing of high fear messages (i.e. LaTour & Pitts, 1989; Mewborn & Rogers, 1979; Rogers, 1983; Witte, 1992) but none of the research has addressed the role production features like imagery play in information processing of the message. Boster and Mongeau (1984) suggested, at the end of their meta-analysis of studies of fear-arousing messages, that "it is not clear exactly what features of a persuasive message are fear arousing" (p. 370). They also argue that "the manipulation of fear and the manipulations of other relevant independent variables are often confounded" (p. 366). The purpose of this study is to more clearly manipulate fear by separating a fearful topic from the imagery level used in messages on the topic. More specifically, this study will examine how imagery in high-fear radio public service announcements affects attention, arousal and negative emotional valence.
Previous research has found that imagery results in a greater focus of attention to internal mental processes as evidenced by faster heart rate during exposure to high-imagery radio messages compared to low-imagery messages (author cite). Radio messages with negative emotional valence have been found to result in greater attention paid externally to the message as evidenced by slower heart rate during negative compared to positive messages (author cite). Researchers have not investigated whether during high-imagery, high-fear messages listeners focus attention internally to the process of mental imagery or externally on the message. In an exploratory study this author found participants heart rate to be slower during exposure to high-imagery, high-fear messages compared to low-imagery, high-fear messages suggesting that participants were primarily allocating attention externally to the message. This study will attempt to replicate the exploratory study. The following hypothesis will be tested:
H1: Heart rate will be slower during exposure to high-imagery, high-fear messages compared to low-imagery, high-fear messages.
If fear appeal interferes with the ability to focus attention internally to generating mental images during exposure to high-imagery messages it is possible that after exposure, participants will be able to allocate attention to generating mental images when cognitive resources are no longer needed to process the incoming message. Thus, if people are instructed to think about the message, they should experience greater mental imagery while thinking about high-imagery, high-fear messages compared to low-imagery, high-fear messages. This leads to the following hypothesis:
H2: Heart rate will be faster for high-imagery, high-fear messages compared to low-imagery, high-fear messages after exposure when participants are instructed to think about a message.
Given that negative messages result in attention being allocated externally to the message it could be that the experience of negative emotion is what interferes with the ability to allocate attention internally to mental imagery. Previous research has shown that negative emotion can be measured with facial EMG by measuring activity over the Corrugator muscle (Eckman, 1993). This study will explore the possibility that negative emotion interferes mental imagery during exposure by testing the following hypothesis:
H3: Corrugator muscle activity will be greater during exposure to high-imagery, high-fear messages compared to low-imagery, high-fear messages.
Previous research has also demonstrated that both negative emotion and imagery are production features that intensify arousal (Lang, Dhillon & Dong, 1995; author cite) as evidenced by increased skin conductance. This leads to a final hypothesis:
H4: Skin conductance will be greater during exposure to high-imagery, high-fear messages compared to low-imagery, high-fear messages.
Method
Independent Variable
Imagery
Imagery is conceptually defined as production features of radio that engage listeners in imagery processing. According to previous research sound effects and descriptive wording increase the imagery level of a radio announcement (Miller & Marks, 1997). Imagery will be manipulated through the presence of sound effects and descriptive wording in the copy.
Dependent Variables
Attention
Attention is mental effort put into processing the radio announcements. Heart rate will be obtained as a measure of attention. Participants' heart rate will be measured for a five second baseline prior to onset of each message, time-locked to exposure to each message and for a 30 second post-exposure period during which participants will be instructed to think about the message they just listened to. Heart rate will be collected as milliseconds between beats and converted to beats per minute.
Emotional Valence
Emotional valence is a dimension of emotion that has to do with how positive or negative a person feels. Negative emotional valence will be measured in this study through facial EMG. Corrugator muscle activity will be measured for a five second baseline prior to onset of each message, time-locked to exposure to each message and for a 30 second post-exposure period during which participants will be instructed to think about the message they just listened to. Self-reported emotional valence will also be obtained by having participants complete the SAM (self-assessment mannequin) scale (Lang, Greenwald, Bradley & Hamm, 1993).
Arousal
Arousal is a dimension of emotion that reflects how excited our calm a person feels. Arousal will be measured by obtaining participants' skin conductance. Skin conductance will be measured for a five second baseline prior to onset of each message, time-locked to exposure to each message and for a 30 second post-exposure period during which participants will be instructed to think about the message they just listened to. Self-reported arousal will also be obtained by having participants complete the SAM (self-assessment mannequin) scale (Lang, Greenwald, Bradley & Hamm, 1993).
Design
This experiment will use a 2 (Imagery) X 3 (Message Topic) X 3 (Order) repeated measures mixed model design. Imagery and Message Topic are within subjects variable. The messages will be recorded in three different orders and participants will be randomly assigned to listen to one of the orders.
Stimuli
A survey conducted in Fall 2001 of 95 undergraduates at a large northwestern university indicated that pregnancy, contracting a sexually transmitted disease and being the victim of a drunk driver are high fear issues. A 60 second high imagery and low imagery message was produced for each of the high fear message topics. The high imagery messages featured a storyline with descriptive wording and sound effects. The low imagery messages featured college students talking about why they fear each topic. Six low fear messages will also be included as stimuli in order to keep participants from becoming overly sensitized to fear appeal. These low fear messages were obtained from the Ad Council and have been pre-tested to ensure they are indeed low fear.
Procedure
Participants will be forty undergraduate students enrolled in Communication courses at a large northwestern university. Participants will complete the experiment one at a time in a psychophysiology lab. Informed consent will be obtained and then participants will be prepped for the collection of physiological data. All instructions for the experiment will be recorded onto audio tape and played for participants. Instructions for completing the self-report measures will be played followed by instructions for the post-exposure task. For this task participants will be told that after each message they will see a cue on the screen that instructs them to "please sit still and think about the message you just heard" and then will be prompted to complete the self-report measures. Participants will be given the opportunity to ask questions and then will listen to each radio message. After completing self-report measures for the last message participants will be thanked and dismissed.
Time table
Data for this experiment will be collected by the end of February 2002. Data analysis will be completed by the end of March 2002. References

Boster, F.J., & Mongeau, P. (1984). Fear-arousing persuasive messages. In R.N. Bostrom & B.H. Westley (Eds.) Communication Yearbook 8. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 330-375.

Ekman, P. (1993). Facial expression and emotion. American Psychologist, 48 (4), 384-392.

Lang, A., Dhillon, K. & Dong, Q. (1995). The effects of emotional arousal and valence on television viewers' cognitive capacity and memory. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 39, 313-327.

Lang, P.J., Greenwald, M., Bradley, M.M., & Hamm, A.O. (1993). Looking at pictures: Evaluative, facial, visceral, and behavioral responses. Psychophysiology, 30, 261-273.

LaTour, M.S., & Pitts, R.E. (1989). Using fear appeals in advertising for AIDS prevention in the college-age population. Journal of Health Care Marketing, 9(3), 5-14.

Mewborn, C.R., & Rogers, R.W. (1979). Effects of threatening and reassuring components of fear appeals on physiological; and verbal measures of emotion and attitudes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 15, 242-253.

Miller, D. W., & Marks, L.J. (1997). The effects of imagery evoking radio advertising strategies on affective responses. Psychology and Marketing, 14 (4), 337-360.

Rogers, R.W. (1983). Cognitive and physiological processes in fear appeals and attitude change: A revised theory of protection motivation. In J.T. Cacioppo & R.E. Petty (Eds.) Social psychophysiology: A sourcebook. London: The Guildford Press, 153-176.

Witte, K. (1992). Putting the fear back into fear appeals: The extended parallel process model. Communication Monographs, 59, 329-349.

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Fear on the Radio: Cognitive and emotional responses to high-imagery high-fear public service announcements Extended Abstract How does the level of imagery in high fear radio public service announcements affect cognitive and emotional processing of the message? A significant body of research has explored information processing of high fear messages (i.e. LaTour & Pitts 1989; Mewborn & Rogers 1979; Rogers 1983; Witte 1992) but none of the research has addressed the role production features like imagery play in information
C.R. & Rogers R.W. (1979). Effects of threatening and reassuring components of fear appeals on physiological; and verbal measures of emotion and attitudes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 15 242_253. Miller D. W. & Marks L.J. (1997). The effects of imagery evoking radio advertising strategies on affective responses. Psychology and Marketing 14 (4) 337-360. Rogers R.W. (1983). Cognitive and physiological processes in fear appeals and attitude change: A revised theory of protection motivation. In J.T. Cacioppo & R.E. Petty


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