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Four Perspectives on the Role of Fear in Persuasion
Unformatted Document Text:  Four Perspectives on . . . 3 Four Perspectives on the Role of Fear in Persuasion The year 1953 marks the publication of the first social scientific study of fear/threat appeals (Janis & Feshbach, 1953). Since that time, researchers have shown an unflagging interest in how individuals perceive and process messages that contain threatening information. In fact, studies of fear/threat appeals now number in the hundreds (Rogers & Prentice-Dunn, 1997; Witte & Allen, 2000). And, although different writers view fear differently, both classic (e.g., Janis, 1967; Leventhal, 1971) and contemporary theories (e.g., Rogers & Prentice-Dunn, 1997; Witte, 1992) appreciate the necessity of understanding the role of fear in message processing. Surprisingly, there is relatively little research aimed at illuminating the nature and operation of fear itself as an integral part of persuasion process (but see Nabi, 1999). One general strategy for mending this situation is to synthesize fear appeal research with current work on emotion (Author Withheld) . In line with this strategy, we based our efforts in this project on a pair of assumptions that are wholly noncontroversial in the emotion literature. First, we presumed that when faced with the same message or circumstances, some individuals are more prone to the experience of a particular emotion or set of emotions than are others (Bates, 2000). Second, we embraced the position that emotions are dynamic phenomena that vary in intensity over time. They can be understood to possess three properties that characterize dynamism: onset or rise, peak, and offset or decay (Frijda, 1986). Four perspectives on the role of fear in persuasion flow directly from these assumptions. Grounded in the temperament assumption, the reactivity perspective emphasizes individual differences in the propensity for fear arousal and the subsequent effects of fear on persuasion. Three additional views, which derive from the dynamic properties of emotion, can be illustrated

Authors: Dillard, James. and Anderson, Jason.
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Four Perspectives on . . .
3
Four Perspectives on the Role of Fear in Persuasion
The year 1953 marks the publication of the first social scientific study of fear/threat
appeals (Janis & Feshbach, 1953). Since that time, researchers have shown an unflagging interest
in how individuals perceive and process messages that contain threatening information. In fact,
studies of fear/threat appeals now number in the hundreds (Rogers & Prentice-Dunn, 1997; Witte
& Allen, 2000). And, although different writers view fear differently, both classic (e.g., Janis,
1967; Leventhal, 1971) and contemporary theories (e.g., Rogers & Prentice-Dunn, 1997; Witte,
1992) appreciate the necessity of understanding the role of fear in message processing.
Surprisingly, there is relatively little research aimed at illuminating the nature and
operation of fear itself as an integral part of persuasion process (but see Nabi, 1999). One general
strategy for mending this situation is to synthesize fear appeal research with current work on
emotion (Author Withheld) . In line with this strategy, we based our efforts in this project on a
pair of assumptions that are wholly noncontroversial in the emotion literature. First, we
presumed that when faced with the same message or circumstances, some individuals are more
prone to the experience of a particular emotion or set of emotions than are others (Bates, 2000).
Second, we embraced the position that emotions are dynamic phenomena that vary in intensity
over time. They can be understood to possess three properties that characterize dynamism: onset
or rise, peak, and offset or decay (Frijda, 1986).
Four perspectives on the role of fear in persuasion flow directly from these assumptions.
Grounded in the temperament assumption, the reactivity perspective emphasizes individual
differences in the propensity for fear arousal and the subsequent effects of fear on persuasion.
Three additional views, which derive from the dynamic properties of emotion, can be illustrated


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