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

Authors: Bolls, Paul., Mendelson, Andrew. and Popeski, Wayne.
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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 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


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