Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fear appeal: Never ever to be a drunk driver!

The consequence of being a drunk driver can be even worse than die! This advert illustrates the misery of a girl who suffered from a severe car crash due to drunk driving. This image exemplified a tactic called ‘fear appeal’ that elicits fear by linking an undesired action with negative consequence.

Fear appeals reply on a threat to an individual’s well-being that motivates him/her towards action (i.e. increasing control over a situation or preventing an unwanted outcome) (Maddux & Rogers,1983). Johnston and Warkentin (2010) conducted an experiment to investigate the effect of fear appeal.

College students were solicited via email to volunteer for the project of computer security and information assurance. Participants were randomly assigned to three groups. In group 1, participants were exposed to a pretest survey followed by a fear appeal treatment and a posttest survey; in group 2, participants were subjected only to the pretest survey and the posttest survey; in group 3, participants were exposed to the fear appeal treatment and the posttest survey only, thereby making it possible to account for testing effects. Six constructs were measured: behavioural intent (compliance of end users with recommendations to enact specific individual computer security actions towards the mitigation of threats), social influence, response efficacy, self-efficacy, threat severity, and threat susceptibility.

Partial least squares regression analysis was employed to examine the structural model, and the result is illustrated in the figure below. It showed that the impact of fear appeals on behavioural intentions was determined in part by perceptions of self-efficacy, response efficacy, threat severity, and social influence.

In term of my striking image, the perceived threat is very severe (even worse than die), whilst the perceived self-efficacy is very high (never drunk driving). People will conform this recommendation to prevent severe consequences.

Johnston, A. C., & Warkentin, M. (2010). Fear appeals and information security behaviors: an empirical study. MIS quarterly, 34(3), 549-566.
Maddux, J. E., & Rogers, R. W. (1983). Protection motivation and self-efficacy: A revised theory of fear      appeals and attitude change. Journal of experimental social psychology, 19(5), 469-479.


  1. if i may ask, what year is this ad and which brand or company did this?

  2. Despite rising awareness regarding consequences of drunk driving, cases still come in. DUI law is the most dynamic and complex area of litigation in criminal law as these laws change frequently. The legislature make changes to DUI laws almost every year. Make sure your attorney is up-to-date on changed laws. My cousin works with a Los Angeles DUI attorney and that’s how I know things a bit.

  3. The scary thing is even after looking at that picture, some jerk will party too hard and simply get behind the wheel and murder another persons family. These drunks usually survive and completely devastate other family. The only answer is stricter penalties, forget those three strike deals. Drunks get back on the road until they get jail time and are taken off the roads.

    Kim Hunter @ K Hunter Law


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