Journal of Social Marketing, Volume 6, Issue 4, October 2016.
Purpose This paper assesses the interactive impact of dispositional threat orientation and affirmation (both self-affirmation and self-efficacy) on the effectiveness of fear appeals. Design/methodology/approach A 3 x 2 x 2 x 2 fully crossed, mixed experimental design is used. The study is conducted through an on-line survey platform. Participants are nationally representative in terms of age, gender, and geographic location within the USA. Findings Threat orientation impacts individuals’ responses to fear appeals. Control oriented individuals respond in a more adaptive manner, heightened-sensitivity oriented individuals are a “mixed-bag,” and denial oriented individuals respond in a more maladaptive manner. Affirmations (both self-affirmation and self-efficacy) interact with threat orientation in some cases to predict response to threat. Research limitations/implications This research used a cross sectional approach in an on-line environment. A longitudinal study with a stronger self-affirmation intervention and self-efficacy manipulation would offer a stronger test. Practical implications Social Marketers should consider whether their primary target market has a general tendency toward a particular threat orientation when considering the use of fear appeals. Social marketers should consider the potential benefits of a self-affirmation intervention. Originality/value Little or no research has examined the use of self-affirmation to overcome the challenges posed by dispositional threat orientation. This research gives an early glimpse into how these issues interplay.


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