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Four Perspectives on the Role of Fear in Persuasion
Unformatted Document Text:  Four Perspectives on . . . 4 in terms of a motion metaphor (cf., Carver & Scheier, 1999). Analogous to the concept of rate, the velocity perspective emphasizes the intensity of the emotion. In its simplest form, it implies that the more intense the emotion, the greater its effects on persuasion. One alternative, the acceleration perspective, suggests that rate is less important than rate of change (Carver & Scheier, 1999). On this view, we should look for the effects of emotion by examining the change from baseline to peak emotional intensity. The final perspective, which we label deceleration, agrees that rate of change is key. However, it focuses our attention on the offset of the emotion, rather than its onset. A deceleration perspective suggests that it is the degree to which fear is reduced that determines persuasion (Dolinski & Nawrat, 1998; Janis & Feshbach, 1953). Achieving a better understanding of these four perspectives would contribute to our understanding of basic theoretical processes in important ways. But, in light of the many existing threats to public health and the ongoing need to inform individuals of those hazards, it is difficult to overstate the importance of a knowledge centered on the application of fear appeals. Before describing a study designed to test these four perspectives, we first consider the theory and research associated with each in more detail. The Reactivity Perspective Positive and negative affect are thought to be manifestations of two underlying physiological systems whose purpose is to guide behavior (Thayer, 1989; Watson, Weise, Vaidya, & Tellegen,1999). The function of the behavioral approach system (BAS) is to initiate incentive-motivated action (Davidson, 1993; Depue & Collins, 1999; Gray, 1990). Thus, it is sensitive to cues of reward, nonpunishment, and escape from punishment. Activation of the BAS produces positive affect.

Authors: Dillard, James. and Anderson, Jason.
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Four Perspectives on . . .
4
in terms of a motion metaphor (cf., Carver & Scheier, 1999). Analogous to the concept of rate,
the velocity perspective emphasizes the intensity of the emotion. In its simplest form, it implies
that the more intense the emotion, the greater its effects on persuasion. One alternative, the
acceleration perspective, suggests that rate is less important than rate of change (Carver &
Scheier, 1999). On this view, we should look for the effects of emotion by examining the change
from baseline to peak emotional intensity. The final perspective, which we label deceleration,
agrees that rate of change is key. However, it focuses our attention on the offset of the emotion,
rather than its onset. A deceleration perspective suggests that it is the degree to which fear is
reduced that determines persuasion (Dolinski & Nawrat, 1998; Janis & Feshbach, 1953).
Achieving a better understanding of these four perspectives would contribute to our
understanding of basic theoretical processes in important ways. But, in light of the many existing
threats to public health and the ongoing need to inform individuals of those hazards, it is difficult
to overstate the importance of a knowledge centered on the application of fear appeals. Before
describing a study designed to test these four perspectives, we first consider the theory and
research associated with each in more detail.
The Reactivity Perspective
Positive and negative affect are thought to be manifestations of two underlying
physiological systems whose purpose is to guide behavior (Thayer, 1989; Watson, Weise,
Vaidya, & Tellegen,1999). The function of the behavioral approach system (BAS) is to initiate
incentive-motivated action (Davidson, 1993; Depue & Collins, 1999; Gray, 1990). Thus, it is
sensitive to cues of reward, nonpunishment, and escape from punishment. Activation of the BAS
produces positive affect.


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