Communications about Environmental Risks and Risk-Reducing Behavior: The Impact of Fear on Information Processing

Meijnders, Anneloes L; Midden, Cees J. H; Wilke, Henk A. M. (2001). Communications about environmental risks and risk-reducing behavior: The impact of fear on information processing. . Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 31, 4, 754-777.

Examined the impact of fear on attitudes and the mediating role of information processing. Fear and argument strength were manipulated according to a 3 * 2 (Fear: Control vs Moderate Fear vs High Fear * Arguments: Weak vs Strong) between-Ss design. Fear was aroused with regard to the risks associated with global warming, and the information to be processed was a persuasive message about energy-conserving light bulbs. The results indicate that both moderate and high levels of fear had an impact on attitudes. Moderate fear resulted in more positive attitudes toward energy-saving bulbs, but only when strong arguments in favor of these bulbs were provided. High fear had a positive effect on attitudes, regardless of argument strength. It is concluded that fear may influence attitudes both in a direct and an indirect way, mediated by information processing. Whether the direct or the indirect effect dominates appears to depend on fear intensity.

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