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.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Fear elicitation in a environmental lecture

Yesterday I watched a hot video talking about the heavy smog in China. At the beginning of the video, the lecturer opened the topic by describing the experience of her daughter:
“Only when the air quality index is low or moderate did I take her out of the home. How many days like this in a year? Only 190! That means I have to keep her home like a prison in most of the year.” Then a picture showing her daughter looking desperately at the dusty sky outside appeared.
The lecturer further described how she insisted on wearing masks for all outdoor activities; how she carefully stock every crack of the rubberized tapes on the window; how she was robbed by the air quality index which dominated all the plans of her life. By the end of the first section, she concluded “I’m not afraid of death; I don’t want to live in this way”.

Although the lecturer claimed she did not fear the smog, her words did elicit fear in the audience who was shocked of how severely the smog had already influenced people’s lives. The emotion of fear stimulated the audience’s arousal, facilitating increased attention the audience paid to the severity of smog pollution and increased propensity to take action. This persuasive technique is fear arousal and it was confirmed in Dillard and Peck (2000) ’s experiment.
140 undergraduates viewed eight public service announcements and reported on their attitudinal responses to each. Participants were also required to report their emotions when they watched the videos. Some of them were instructed to use the emotions in evaluating the advertisements (heuristic-enabled condition); while others were warned not to let the emotions influence their evaluation (heuristic-disabled condition).
Results found that the manipulation of whether or not let intentional emotions influence attitudes did not make difference across situations. However, emotions did associate with attitudes via perceived effectiveness of messages. The structural pathway below shows how emotion of fear and cognitive dissonance act on the perceived effectiveness, leading to attitude change toward the issue. As the issue in the experiment of baby in the bathwater is similar to the issue in the lecture of baby in the polluted air, it is highly possible that the success of the lecture depends on fear elicited by the lecture which increased people’s attention and persuaded them to take environmentally friendly actions. 

To sum up, the lecturer used the experience of her daughter and herself to elicit the fear about the smog in the audience, stimulating their attention and paving the way for behavioral change. The fear elicitation made good effect in the public speech and its validity was proved by a psychological experiment.

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