Behaviour Change

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

Friday, January 30, 2015

Provide your loved one the best chance to survive from the fire

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ir2bekewg-8

You did promise, didn't you? On your child't life.
Fire Kills has been running for 25 years. This  award-winning “clock change” national campaign reminded the public to test their smoke alarms over the clock change weekend in March. The heart-wrenching video was set in a tragic contextual background, starting with "Last year 15 children died in house fires, children like yours." to pull the audience 's emotion into the story. A young boy examined the damaged toy and clock before asking the public to swear " To test alarm clock when I change the clock to give my family best chance to survive from a house fire." The boy emphasised "you did promise, didn't you. you can't turn back time" before he faded away which suggested he also had died in the fire. This campaign successfully persuaded householders to check whether their smoke alarm was still working. As reported, the numbers of people who reported testing their smoke alarm clock change weekend increased by 18% after this video had been clicked over 70,000 times on Youtube.
It is worthwhile to break this campaign into details in order to investigate how this campaign would be so effective.  Extensive researches has showed evoked fear is by far the most important determining factor of persuasive message(Strong and Dubas, 1993; Witte, 1992; LaTour and Rotfeld, 1997;Witte and Allen, 2000;Dillard and Anderson, 2004; Lennon and Rentfro, 2010). Comparing an undesired action with negative outcome to a desired action with the avoidance of a negative outcome could effectively create fear. By definition from Kim Witte (1992)”Fear appeals are persuasive messages designed to scare people by describing the terrible things that will happen to them if they do not do what the message recommends."
Under fear appeal theory framework, with meta analysis (Witte and Allen, 2000), several factors could possibly influence the effectiveness of fear appeals besides evoked fear ,such as perceived severity , perceived susceptibility, perceived response efficacy, perceived self efficacy.

In previous experiment (Strong and Dubas, 1993), subjects were assigned randomly to the five level of fear ad conditions (very low , low ,moderate , high very high).Fear arousal showed a clear discrimination across different levels of arousal. From low to high levels of fear arousal, it was illustrated a positive linear effect for fear(exception of the very high fear-arousing and the lowest persuasive effectiveness.Therefore the the intensity of fear arousal contribute to the effectiveness of persuasion. Too strong threat of fear might induce defence mechanisms for the employer to avoid the persuasive message.
 Besides the optimal level of  fear appeals, behavioural change still needs high percied efficacy in two aspects----" self-efficacy" and :response-efficacy". Specifically, self-efficacy represents whether the employ can avoid the negative consequence and response-efficacy explains if one take the action whether it effectively help one to avoid the negative consequence.



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Table 1 shows that Both perceived response efficacy and perceived efficacy have a small and marginally significance. Evoked fear ad perceived severity have great significant effect on message credibility.
This confirms with meta analysis founding(Witte and Allen, 2000) that strong fear appeals with high efficacy messages produce changes in behaviour. Fear might affect persuasive message in different ways. According to Dillard and Anderson (2002), fear rise from baseline and and peak intensity determines the effectiveness of persuasion but the decline from peak to postmessgae fear have no impact on message credibility. 

In conclusion, fear is an emotion that creates avoidance tendency. It has beed demonstrated to be effective in changing attitudes and behaviour when three conditions meet (1) arouse intense fear (2) offers a specific recommendation for overcoming the fear (3) the target believes he or she can perform the recommendation that is effective in encouraging the adoption of that course of action.


Dillard, J.P. and J.W. Anderson(2002), “The role of fear in persuasion,” in :Psychology &Markeing, 21(11), 909-926.
LaTour, M.. and H.J. Rotfeld (1997),” There are threats and (maybe) fear-caused arousal: theory and confusions of fear appeals to fear and fear arousal itself,” in: Journal of Advertising, 26(3), 45-59.
Lennon,R. and Rentro, R (2010), “Are young adults fear appeal effectiveness ratings explained by fear arousal, perceived threat and perceived efficacy?” Innovative Marketing. 6(1), 58-65
Strong, J. and K. Dubas (1993), “The optimal level of fear-arousal in advertising: an empirical,” Journal of Current Issues and Research in Advertising, 15(2), 93-99.
Witte, K. (1992), “Putting the fear back into fear appeals: the extended parallel processing model,” in: Communication Monographs, 61(2),113-134.

Witte, K. and Allen, M(2002), “A meta-analysis of fear appeals:implication for effective public health campaigns.” Health Educational Behaviour, 27(5):591-615.

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