Threat Appeals as Multi-Emotion Messages: An Argument Structure Model of Fear and Disgust

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To enhance message impact, threat appeals often include disgusting imagery. Theorizing multi-emotion messages may benefit from juxtaposition of the argumentation and emotion literatures. Doing so yields a distinction between the thematic and supporting functions of emotion, which allows precise predictions concerning when and why emotions are persuasive. Two studies exposed participants to a message on flossing (N = 374) or meningitis vaccination (N = 290). Emotion data were gathered just before, during, and just after exposure. The results replicated across studies such that (a) the over-time fear curve predicted persuasion, whereas peak fear did not, and (b) the over-time disgust curve did not predict persuasion, whereas peak disgust did. The main ideas are synthesized in the argument structure model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-126
Number of pages24
JournalHuman Communication Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Linguistics and Language

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