Understanding the emotional and coping responses of adolescent individuals exposed to threat appeals

Sonia Dickinson and Matthew Holmes
Curtin University of Technology


Social marketers have many communication options available in the development of campaigns associated with health-related contexts. Advertising that uses emotion-based persuasion (usually in the form of a threat), is commonly used by health marketers to influence an audience (Tanner et al. 1991; Schoenbachler & Whittler 1996; Pechmann & Goldberg 1998; Pechmann et al. 2003; Ruiter et al. 2003; de Hoog et al. 2005; Smith & Stutts 2006). These messages are either attempting to persuade an individual to not engage in dangerous behaviours (i.e. smoking, drug use), or to communicate important health information about the benefits of engaging in a behaviour (i.e. using a toothbrush, or having regular breast examinations). Emotion-based threat appeals are used by public health and safety organisations with the aim of impacting on an individual's attitudes (Rogers 1983; King & Reid 1990; Tanner et al. 1991; Bennett 1996). In order to have improved effectiveness in social marketing advertising so that attitude change occurs, an understanding of cognitive appraisal processes that result from exposure to a threat appeal is important.