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.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Know your limit?


Do you love alcohol?  Do you know your limit?

The Home Office and the Department for Health launched a campaign called ‘Know Your Limits’ in October 2006, aiming at addressing the risks associated to ‘binge drinking’ among 18 to 24 year olds.  Posters and television ads were used in order to convey the message.  The main persuasion tactic is fear appeals. 

The tactic of fear appeals links undesirable actions to negative consequences, thus creating an emotion of fear that will lead to an avoidance tendency.  (Pratkanis, 2007) The slogans and posters have linked binge drinking with negative consequences, such as health problems and other potential danger.  The feeling of fear in encountering these negative consequences is undesirable, and has to be avoided and escaped from. Therefore, this tactic is somehow useful in decreasing people’s tendency of binge drinking.  Research by LaTour and colleagues (1996) supported the idea of using fear appeal in conveying messages.  Two versions of an advertisement for a stun gun device were shown 2 groups of female participants respectively.  One designated as a mild fear appeal ad, whereas the other is a strong fear appeal one.  Result showed that the strong fear appeal generated more tension significantly and a lower tendency to buy the device.  Also, strong fear appeal was seen as less ethical than the mild fear appeal.  Therefore, researchers encouraged the use of the tactic of fear appeals.

However, the use of fear appeal in ads has raised ethical issues, concerned by some of the other researchers and more studies have to be done in order to have a better conclusion of whether fear appeal is an effective method in conveying message and lowering undesirable behaviours.


LaTour, M. S., Snipes, R. L., Bliss, S. J. (1996) Don't be afraid to use fear appeals: An experimental study. Journal of Advertising Research. 36(2), 59-67.

Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). The science of social influence: Advances and future progress. Hove: Psychology Press.

Chermaine Chan

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