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Four Perspectives on the Role of Fear in Persuasion
Unformatted Document Text:  Four Perspectives on . . . 5 The purpose of the behavioral inhibition system (BIS) is to inhibit actions that may lead to deleterious outcomes (Davidson, 1993; Gray, 1990). Consequently, it provides aversive motivation in response to cues associated with punishment, nonreward, and novelty. The BIS is the source of negative affect. Individual differences in the tonic activation level of the two behavioral systems are thought to underlie a variety of behavioral and emotional patterns. For instance, Depue and Collins (1999) explain extraversion in terms of variations in the tonic activation level of the BAS. And, left frontal EEG activation, an indicator of tonic BAS activation, has been related to decreased vulnerability to depression (Kline, Allen, & Schwartz, 1998). Important to each of these applications is the notion that individual differences reflect variations in sensitivity to different types of stimuli. “Sensitivity ultimately means reactivity of the neurobiology associated with a motivational system” (Depue & Collins, 1999, p. 491). Assuming that cues of punishment and nonreward are distributed throughout the environment, but that persons high in tonic BAS activation are more sensitive to these cues, we should expect that the level of tonic BIS activation is directly correlated with self-reports of fear prior to exposure to a threat appeal. Put differently, persons with highly active inhibition systems are generally more fearful than persons with less active inhibition systems. Thus, our first hypothesis is as follows: H1: BIS is positively associated with premessage fear. A defining feature of threat appeals is that they warn of the negative consequences that will accrue to message recipients if they do not alter their behavior (Janis & Feshbach, 1953; Leventhal, 1971; Rogers, 1975; Witte, 1992). In other words, they present cues of punishment

Authors: Dillard, James. and Anderson, Jason.
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Four Perspectives on . . .
5
The purpose of the behavioral inhibition system (BIS) is to inhibit actions that may lead
to deleterious outcomes (Davidson, 1993; Gray, 1990). Consequently, it provides aversive
motivation in response to cues associated with punishment, nonreward, and novelty. The BIS is
the source of negative affect.
Individual differences in the tonic activation level of the two behavioral systems are
thought to underlie a variety of behavioral and emotional patterns. For instance, Depue and
Collins (1999) explain extraversion in terms of variations in the tonic activation level of the
BAS. And, left frontal EEG activation, an indicator of tonic BAS activation, has been related to
decreased vulnerability to depression (Kline, Allen, & Schwartz, 1998). Important to each of
these applications is the notion that individual differences reflect variations in sensitivity to
different types of stimuli. “Sensitivity ultimately means reactivity of the neurobiology associated
with a motivational system” (Depue & Collins, 1999, p. 491).
Assuming that cues of punishment and nonreward are distributed throughout the
environment, but that persons high in tonic BAS activation are more sensitive to these cues, we
should expect that the level of tonic BIS activation is directly correlated with self-reports of fear
prior to exposure to a threat appeal. Put differently, persons with highly active inhibition systems
are generally more fearful than persons with less active inhibition systems. Thus, our first
hypothesis is as follows:
H1: BIS is positively associated with premessage fear.
A defining feature of threat appeals is that they warn of the negative consequences that
will accrue to message recipients if they do not alter their behavior (Janis & Feshbach, 1953;
Leventhal, 1971; Rogers, 1975; Witte, 1992). In other words, they present cues of punishment


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