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Dr. Petroski
Dr. Petroski
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The Only Thing to Fear is Fear

on Thu May 24, 2018 9:23 pm
One of the most difficult aspects of the persuasion process is capturing an individual’s attention. Many individuals are resistant to persuasion when they recognize it, and as has been discussed already, it can be difficult for individuals to overcome their own heuristics in order to process a message carefully (of course, not all persuasion requires careful processing).

To combat this and attract attention, many advertisers and campaign managers have turned to using fear appeals to grab individuals’ attention. The logic behind fear appeals suggests that frightening people should get them to play attention to a message so that they can better protect themselves, as fear is a particularly strong motivator for human response.

But is fear enough? Communication and persuasion scholar Kim Witte developed the Extended Parallel Processing Model to suggest that merely scaring audiences is not in itself enough to suggest behavioral change. After all, fear might get us to pay attention to a message, but if a message scares us too much, we are just as likely to go into a state of fear control where we work to manage our emotions, for example, by discrediting the message or being repulsed by and then ignoring it. Such a campaign might be a memorable one, but likely does little to persuade us toward any sort of action.

How can we use fear effectively? Considering the discussion of fear in Ch. 11 of the textbook, what are your thoughts about using fear to raise issues with audiences? Based on the book, does it seem like fear can be used in a positive way? Do you agree?

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Dr. Petroski
Department of Communication
Southern Connecticut State University
petroskid1@southernct.edu
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