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Four Perspectives on the Role of Fear in Persuasion
Unformatted Document Text:  Four Perspectives on . . . 8 ensues when progress toward a goal is less than expected, whereas positive affect is the result of greater than expected progress. Although Carver and Scheier (1999) do not say so, the ideas that comprise control theory suggest a perspective that is distinct from those discussed thus far. The logic of control theory implies that it is the degree of change from baseline (i.e., acceleration) that best captures the manner in which fear exerts an influence on persuasion. At first glance it might appear that this possibility is conflated with that of velocity. If the tonic affective state of all individuals at t 1 is assumed to be zero, then the magnitude of fear arousal (i.e., t 2 - t 1 ) will be identical to peak fear intensity (i.e., t 2 ). However, the reactivity perspective suggests that this assumption is unlikely to hold. Individual differences in tonic BIS activation will produce variations in fear at t 1 thereby rendering the acceleration perspective unique. Consequently, this perspective anticipates that: H5: Fear acceleration is positively associated with persuasion. The Deceleration Perspective The deceleration perspective focuses on the offset of emotion. In the arena of fear appeals, drive theory offers what is probably the first prediction of a deceleration effect (Janis & Feshbach, 1953). Grounded in learning theory, the drive models viewed reinforcement as the mechanism behind attitude change. A message was reinforcing to the extent that it first induced fear, then alleviated that emotional state by providing cues to appropriate action. A convincing test of the theory it would require measuring fear at least twice: once after the arousal component of the message (i.e., the threat) and once after the abatement component (i.e., the recommendation). Curiously, we do not know of a single study since the publication of Janis and Feshbach (1953) that has utilized such a design.

Authors: Dillard, James. and Anderson, Jason.
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Four Perspectives on . . .
8
ensues when progress toward a goal is less than expected, whereas positive affect is the result of
greater than expected progress.
Although Carver and Scheier (1999) do not say so, the ideas that comprise control theory
suggest a perspective that is distinct from those discussed thus far. The logic of control theory
implies that it is the degree of change from baseline (i.e., acceleration) that best captures the
manner in which fear exerts an influence on persuasion. At first glance it might appear that this
possibility is conflated with that of velocity. If the tonic affective state of all individuals at t
1
is
assumed to be zero, then the magnitude of fear arousal (i.e., t
2
- t
1
) will be identical to peak fear
intensity (i.e., t
2
). However, the reactivity perspective suggests that this assumption is unlikely to
hold. Individual differences in tonic BIS activation will produce variations in fear at t
1
thereby
rendering the acceleration perspective unique. Consequently, this perspective anticipates that:
H5: Fear acceleration is positively associated with persuasion.
The Deceleration Perspective
The deceleration perspective focuses on the offset of emotion. In the arena of fear
appeals, drive theory offers what is probably the first prediction of a deceleration effect (Janis &
Feshbach, 1953). Grounded in learning theory, the drive models viewed reinforcement as the
mechanism behind attitude change. A message was reinforcing to the extent that it first induced
fear, then alleviated that emotional state by providing cues to appropriate action. A convincing
test of the theory it would require measuring fear at least twice: once after the arousal component
of the message (i.e., the threat) and once after the abatement component (i.e., the
recommendation). Curiously, we do not know of a single study since the publication of Janis and
Feshbach (1953) that has utilized such a design.


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