April 2-4, 2020 • Hyatt Regency • Lexington, KY
Intersectionality and Interdisciplinarity in Health Communication Research
Abstract: Effects of Hope, Fear, and Guilt Appeals on Seasonal Influenza Prevention
◆ Amy E. Chadwick, Ohio University
Emotional appeals can affect health behavior and other persuasive outcomes. However, it is unclear which emotional appeals are most effective for influencing particular health behaviors or persuasive outcomes. Numerous studies compare the effectiveness of emotional appeals to a control condition; however, few studies compare the effects of emotional appeals to each other. Knowing which emotional appeal can best affect which persuasive outcomes for which topics would enable us to maximize the effectiveness of our health messages. Therefore, this study explored the ability of hope, fear, and guilt appeals along with the emotions of hope, fear, and guilt to predict persuasive outcomes related to seasonal influenza prevention.
697 undergraduate students participated in a between-subject experiment with four study conditions: a hope appeal (n = 170), a fear appeal (n = 182), a guilt appeal (n = 169), and a control message (n = 176). Participants ranged in age from 18 to 32 years old (M = 19.1, SD = 1.26). More than half of the participants identified as female (n = 409, 58.7%), most of the rest identified as male (n = 285, 38.3%), and one participant identified as transgender (0.1%). Most participants identified as Caucasian-American or White (n = 620, 89.0%). When asked whether they had gotten the flu shot this fall, most participants had not (n = 493, 70.7%), some had (n = 167, 24.0%), and a few were unsure whether they had had the flu shot (n = 37, 5.3%).
Results indicate that the fear appeal led to greater intention to cover one’s cough or sneeze (p = .018) and to wash one’s hands or use hand sanitizer (p = .008). In addition, the fear appeal led to greater interpersonal communication intention (p = .004) and interest in seasonal influenza prevention (p = .047) than the control condition. The guilt appeal also led to greater interpersonal communication intention (p = .009) and interest in seasonal influenza prevention (p = .022) than the control condition. However, the fear appeal led to significantly more anger than the hope appeal (p = .028) or the control condition (p = .023). The emotion hope was the strongest predictor of interest in seasonal influenza, self-efficacy, response efficacy and positive social norms. Both hope and fear were nearly equal positive predictors of interpersonal communication intention, information seeking intention, intention to cover one’s cough or sneeze, and intention to wash one’s hands or use hand sanitizer.
This study indicates that fear appeals are the most effective message appeal for seasonal influenza prevention. However, the emotion hope is the strongest or equal predictor of persuasive outcomes related to seasonal influenza prevention. Because characteristics of the message topic as well as characteristics of the recommended behavior likely affect which emotional appeal is most persuasive, it is important to continue to test the effectiveness of hope, fear, and guilt appeals in other contexts. This study takes a step toward identifying which emotional appeals and emotions are most effective for influencing persuasive outcomes.