Fear-inducing tactics have been found to be more effective on women, a new study revealed. Somehow, when even the most subtle form of fear is applied to a strategy, the desired goal, which includes changing a person's behavior or mindset, will be achieved.
Psychologists conducted a comprehensive analysis of 50 years' worth of research regarding fear appeals. Commonly used in marketing strategies, fear appeals are messages that persuade the readers to focus on the possible harm and danger that can happen if they fail to adopt the recommendations of the messages.
In a study published in the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin journal, researchers had analyzed 127 articles which contained 248 individual samples and more than 27,000 respondents from studies conducted during 1962 to 2014.
After a huge meta-analysis, researchers concluded that fear is indeed an effective tactic, especially if used on the female audience, and if they contained one-time only recommendations. Fear appeals are also most effective when they describe how to avoid several threats.
Dr. Dolores Albarracin, lead author of the study, explained that fear appeals can cause a significant albeit small shift in a person's attitude and perception.
"However, fear appeals should not be seen as a panacea because the effect is still small. Still, there is no data indicating that audiences will be worse off from receiving fear appeals in any condition," she said.
In the study, the researchers measured the amount of fear that the message attempted to induce to readers, the extent of how it described the reader as susceptible to the threat, and whether it contained messages that conveyed efficacy.
Albarracin said that there were no known circumstances in which fear appeals had backfired, and that there were only a few circumstances in which these tactics are not applicable.
She also explained that the articles they analyzed did not compare people who were not afraid to people who were. Instead, the articles compared groups that were exposed to messages that had more or less fear appeals.
"More elaborate strategies, such as training people on the skills they will need to succeed in changing behavior, will likely be more effective in most contexts. It is very important not to lose sight of this," added Albarracin.
Photo : Sascha Kohlmann | Flickr