Fear appeals have often been used as a persuasive technique in communications. There are however mixed views about the effectiveness of fear appeal strategy for behaviour modification. In the above image, a human being with a fish head is portrayed to arouse fear in the audience and to subsequently grab their attention. This advert represents the human vulnerability to the risk of climate change however it does not provide any suggestions to prevent this change.
According to protection motivation theory high threat advertisements can only prove to be effective when the self efficacy and efficacy of recommended action are both high. A study investigated the effects of probability of occurrence, negative results/harmfulness of the threatened event and the efficacy of coping responses on attitude change in 176 participants on topics of cigarette smoking, safe driving and sexually transmitted diseases. Results showed that participants were more likely to modify their behaviour when the efficacy of protective action was high in comparison to when it was low. Also when the efficacy of recommended action was high, greater perception of the noxiousness and the probability of the occurrence of threatened event made attitude change more likely. When the efficacy of recommended action was low, higher perception of noxiousness of the threatened event and its occurrence either had no effect or negative effect on the attitude change in the subjects respectively (Rogers & Mewborn, 1976)
In the light of the findings of this study it can be predicted that the above presented advertisement would have little impact on people and their behaviour. Advertisers can however make this advert more persuasive by including suggestions and effective recommendations in this advert to help audience change their detrimental attitudes which are affecting the environment. They can also help them get a better understanding of the harmful effects of environment change and how it is putting life on earth at risk. By doing this advertisers would not only provide audience with highly effective coping strategies but also a better understanding of the noxiousness and the probability of occurrence of the threatened event (i.e. climate change) therefore making bahaviour modification more likely.
Rogers, R. W., & Mewborn, C. R. (1976). Fear appeals and attitude change: Effects of a threat's noxiousness, probability of occurrence, and the efficacy of coping responses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34, 54-61.