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Fear appeal messages affect accessibility of attitudes toward the threat and adaptive behaviors

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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.
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Keywords: Attitude Accessibility; Attitude-Behaviour Relationship; Defense Processing; Fear Appeals

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-03-01

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