Turning up the heat: The effects of fear appeals on sun-protective attitudes, intentions, and behaviours 

Dukeshire, S. R. (1996). Turning up the heat: The effects of fear appeals on sun-protective attitudes, intentions, and behaviours (Order No. AAMNN09337). Available from PsycINFO. (619001825; 1996-95023-018).

Research on the efficacy of fear appeals for changing health behaviours has been conducted for over four decades. Yet, there is still considerable debate about how fear appeals influence behaviour. The goal of the current studies was to better understand the influence of fear appeals on persuading people to reduce their exposure to the sun, the primary cause of all skin cancer. Participants in Study 1 viewed one of three fear appeals that varied in level of fear: high fear, low fear, and no fear. However, both questionnaire and behavioural measures indicated that none of the fear appeals was sufficiently strong to produce changes in sun-protective beliefs, attitudes, intentions, and behaviours. Study 2 was designed to strengthen the fear appeals by presenting them in a more controlled setting (a classroom) and having them followed by a short, written exercise designed to enhance the appeals. It was found that the fear appeals were significantly more effective in changing sun-protective beliefs, attitudes, and intentions than were thinking and writing about the effects of the sun on health or no intervention at all. Moreover, there was evidence that fear appeals can enhance sun-protective behaviour. Participants who were exposed to a high fear appeal were twice as likely (20%) to redeem a coupon for sunscreen than were participants who did not receive a fear appeal (p =.05). Study 3 examined the effects of a high versus low fear appeal targeted toward a high risk population regular sunbathers. The high fear appeal was effective in changing beliefs, attitudes, and attentions toward sun protection. However, the timing of Study 3 made it difficult to determine the fear appeal's effects on behaviour change. Path analyses, guided by the theory of reasoned action and revised protection motivation theory, revealed that participants who were at greatest risk for developing, skin cancer and who experienced the greatest fear arousal exhibited the greatest change in sun-protection.

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