Health Communication| “Don’t Make My Mistake”: On the Processing of Narrative Fear Appeals

Joëlle A. Ooms, Carel J.M. Jansen, Saar Hommes, John C.J. Hoeks


In this study, we examined the mechanism underlying the processing of narrative fear appeals. Participants (N = 564) read a story about a protagonist dealing with the consequences of cancer (Study 1: testicular cancer; Study 2: breast cancer; Study 3: skin cancer). Path analysis revealed that (1) attitude and behavioral intention toward performing self-exams were directly and positively associated with a form of transportation we identified as attention-focused transportation; (2) this form of transportation was positively associated with four emotions (fear, sadness, surprise, and compassion), whereas identification positively correlated with only one emotion (compassion); and (3) only the emotion of fear was a predictor of intention to perform self-exams. Taken together, these findings suggest that attention-focused transportation is a very important factor in the processing of narrative fear appeals, and that it can even, under some circumstances, replace the persuasive power of fear.


fear appeal, narrative, emotion, attention, transportation, identification, persuasion, health communication

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