Please login to the form below

Is fear an effective driver of behaviour change?

Client Lead Natalie Seebeck explains that applying fear-based models in communications can be effective, if the right components are used in the right way.
Since the mid-1950s, fear appeals have been applied in an effort to reduce a number of risky, yet modifiable, health related behaviours.¹ Today, they still remain a popular technique for creative agencies, researchers, interventionists, and policy makers.² Even influential bodies such as the World Health Organisation argue in favour of one of the best-illustrated examples of fear appeals; the health warnings on cigarette packages.³ However, if you ask a smoker about the warnings, you’ll often hear “I just ignore the warnings”, or “that’s not me so why would it affect me”.

So, can fear really motivate someone to change their behavior? Can it make a healthcare professional (HCP) choose one treatment over the other? Can it make a patient more adherent to their treatment or encourage them to exercise more, or change their diet? Can it make an HCP prescribe a treatment sooner rather than later?

Despite caution from some researchers, Client Lead Natalie Seebeck explains that applying fear-based models, specifically Protection Motivation Theory (PMT) and the Extended Parallel Processing Model (EPPM), in communications can be effective, if the right components are used in the right way. 

What is a ‘fear appeal’, and how does it work?

According to widely adopted fear appeal theories, such as PMT and EPPM, fear appeals are persuasive communications that consist of two key components:
  1. the presentation of a threat to an individual’s well-being that induces fear
  2. the presentation of recommendations, such as steps to avoid the threat or reduce the impact of the threat.⁴
Once these are presented, an individual’s evaluation or appraisal of these components is expected to result in a motivation to change behaviour.

Protection Motivation Theory: Weighing the threat against the cost of prevention

PMT, or Protection Motivation Theory, says that a change response is the result of two integrated appraisal processes: firstly a threat appraisal, followed by a coping appraisal.⁵
  1. A threat appraisal is the process whereby an individual compares the perceived severity of a threat and their personal likelihood of the worst case outcome, against the potential rewards of engaging in the risky behaviour.
  2. A coping appraisal is the process whereby an individual compares the efficacy of the recommended “self-protective” behaviour and the ease and confidence of executing that behavior, against the costs of choosing that risk reducing behaviour.⁵
The theory states that if the coping appraisal outweighs the threat appraisal, the individual will be motivated and implement the recommended “self-protective” behaviour.⁵For example:
  • Liz, who knows she has a high risk for skin cancer due to family history and skin type, will be more likely to apply sun cream (provided it is easy for them to access, and relatively cheap to purchase).
  • Leo, who knows he has a lower risk of skin cancer, or for whom the cost or convenience of applying sun cream is much higher, will probably forego it.
 References:
  1.  Floyd, Prentice-Dunn, and Rogers, 2000
  2.  Ruiter, Kessels, Peters, and Kok, 2014
  3.  Fong, Hammond, and Hitchman, 2009
  4.  Rogers, 1975; Witte, 1992
  5.  Rogers, 1975

Download the full article with PMT and EPPM models from Blue Latitude Health

1st February 2017

Share

Tags

Company Details

Blue Latitude Health

+44 203 328 1840

Contact Website

Address:
Blue Latitude Health (UK)
140 Aldersgate Street
London
EC1A 4HY
United Kingdom

Latest content on this profile

Diagnosing the lag in neuropsychiatric treatments
The number of mental health research programmes in larger drug firms has shrunk by 70% in the past decade. Blue Latitude Health Senior Associate Consultant Sana Rahim explores this drop in investment and explains why developing a market-orientated model is vital for making progress.
Blue Latitude Health
Precision paediatrics: Treating patients with CAR-T
Dr Stuart Adams specialises in using T-cell therapy to treat paediatric patients at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Here, he explains what it was like to develop and deliver a groundbreaking CAR-T therapy for the first patient in Europe, and how the centre of excellence has adapted to make precision medicine a reality
Blue Latitude Health
What does it mean to be an agile organisation
We spoke with Philip Atkinson to learn how healthcare and pharmaceutical companies can rapidly respond to changes in the market.
Blue Latitude Health
Battling breast cancer with precision medicine (Part 2)
Dr Mark Moasser treated breast cancer survivor Laura Holmes-Haddad (interviewed in part one) with an innovative precision medicine, which at the time was yet to be approved. Here he gives his side of the story and explains how industry can help oncologists treat more patients with targeted therapies.
Blue Latitude Health
Battling breast cancer with precision medicine (Part 1)
Laura Holmes Haddad is a breast cancer survivor. She made the incredibly brave decision to participate in a PARP inhibitor precision medicine trial. Here, the author and precision medicine advocate tells her story and explains what industry needs to remember when treating cancer patients with precision medicine.
Blue Latitude Health
The role of brain health in treating MS
Blue Latitude Health speaks to Professor Gavin Giovannoni, key opinion leader and Chair of Neurology, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, about his theories on brain health, the importance of a holistic approach to MS and why digital technology is the future of effective MS care.
Blue Latitude Health