The role of fear in persuasion

James Price Dillard, Jason W. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Previous research on fear/threat appeals has correlated fear intensity with persuasion. However, fear might influence persuasion in at least four conceptually distinct ways: (a) the proclivity to experience fear, (b) the rise from baseline to peak, (c) peak intensity, and (d) the decline from peak to postmessage fear. A study was conducted in which 361 participants read a message that first described the dangers of influenza, then advocated obtaining a free vaccination. Significant positive correlations were observed between tonic, that is, traitlike, activation of the behavioral-inhibition system (BIS) and various indices of fear arousal. Nonsignificant correlations were observed between the behavioral-activation system (BAS) and the same indices. Both rise and peak measures of fear predicted persuasion, but decline in fear had no discernible impact on persuasion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)909-926
Number of pages18
JournalPsychology and Marketing
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology
  • Marketing


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