Fear appeal messages affect accessibility of attitudes toward the threat and adaptive behaviors
Fear appeals have long been used in persuasive messages to motivate people to perform adaptive behaviors. This research explored the influence of a fear appeal message concerning breast cancer on attitude accessibility. Messages advocating the efficacy of breast self-examinations increased the accessibility of attitudes toward the adaptive behavior. Further, the accessibility of participants' attitudes toward the adaptive behavior predicted behavioral intentions to perform breast self-examinations. Attitudes toward the threat became less accessible after exposure to a high fear-arousing message, however. Analyses suggest that defensive reactions to the fear-inducing message mediate the influence of the message on the accessibility of the attitudes toward breast cancer. Implications of these findings for models of fear appeals are discussed.