Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Meth: Not Even Once
This is an advert from the ‘Montana Meth Project’, which aimed to prevent youths from using meth in the mid-2000s.
The advert exploits meth’s dire consequences to invoke fear in the audience. Here, meth is shown to lead to personal danger by making the user willing to have sex with a stranger for $15. In the scientific literature, fear is a reliable tool for generating attitude change. For instance, Janis and Feshbach (1953) demonstrated that when educated about dental health, participants that received a statement with a vivid description of tooth decay later engaged in more dental hygiene practices than participants who received a dull, control message.
Despite utilising the fear technique, the advertising campaign was largely ineffective. In actuality, it may have made meth seem less risky to youths. This is due to a phenomenon called ‘reactance’, where people rebel against an obvious attempt to control them; in this case, youths dealt with the threatening adverts by telling themselves that meth is not really so bad (Erceg-Hurn, 2008). The campaign’s failure was demonstrated statistically: Erceg-Hurn found that the percentage of teens that saw no risk from using meth once or twice rose from 3% before the campaign's introduction, to 8% six months later.
Erceg-Hurn, D. M. (2008). Drugs, money, and graphic ads: A critical review of the Montana Meth Project. Prevention Science, 9, 256-263.
Janis, I. L., & Feshbach, S. (1953). Effects of fear-arousing communications. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 48, 78.