GTR1400MAN wrote:Scare tactics have been shown not to work in any case. Bravado and general de-sensitisation (via television and the internet) has seen to that.
The prevailing viewpoint among some behavioural scientists and health promotion professionals and practitioners is to avoid threat appeals or to use them with great caution (Elliott, 2003; Elliott, 2005; Shanahan et al., 2000). Similar to the fear-persuasion literature in general, mixed and inconsistent findings have been reported in relation to threat appeals utilized in the road safety advertising context (Ben-Ari et al., 2000). Whilst innumerable attempts have been undertaken to reconcile the disparate findings through identifying key moderating factors and methodological limitations of the available studies, the fact that so many other intervening factors influence the fear-persuasion relationship has lead some to suggest that the use of such appeals is too risky and complicated (Elliott, 2003). The most consistent and definitive conclusions appear to be in relation to the importance, not of fear arousal but, of relevance (i.e, vulnerability) and provision of coping strategies and recommendations that an individual can effectively enact to avoid or prevent a threat from occurring (i.e., efficacy).
Moreover, the concern associated with the frequent use (and preference) of strong physical threats to target young males was highlighted. For instance, it was suggested that, “eliciting fear of personal death may not be always necessarily the most appropriate way to change dangerous behaviour” (Ben-Ari et al., 2000, p. 8; see also Henley & Donovan, 2003). Given that young males represent a high risk road user group yet, appear less influenced by physical appeals intending to target them (Lewis et al., 2007b; Tay, 2002), this evidence provides perhaps one of the most significant challenges to the effectiveness and continued use of strong (physical) threat appeals in the road safety context. Consequently, it seems more than justified to explore the effectiveness of alternative approaches (which may or may not be threat-based). Any reductions in the road trauma among this high risk road user group would have significant implications not only for road safety but for public health generally.
In conclusion, without doubt, the issue of whether or not to use threat appeals in road safety advertising as well as health advertising more generally, will continue to be contentious and prompt debate among researchers and practitioners. Perhaps, the most sound recommendation for anyone considering the use of threat appeals is to ensure that thorough pre-testing and qualitative research be conducted to examine the relevance of the intended message among the target audience as well as to ensure that it elicits high levels of efficacy and vulnerability.
The role of fear appeals in improving driver safety:
A review of the effectiveness of fear-arousing (threat) appeals in road safety advertising
Lewis, I.1, Watson, B.1, Tay, R.2 & White, K. M.3