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Fear Appeals. Persuasive Health Message Framework. Kim Witte, The Persuasive Health Message Framework.

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Fear appeals

Fear Appeals

Persuasive Health Message Framework

Kim witte the persuasive health message framework
Kim Witte, The Persuasive Health Message Framework

  • Framework = Combine parts of successful theories into a single framework. A framework differs from a theory in that it does not attempt to explain human behavior, it simply outlines what one should do to develop the most effective and persuasive campaigns.


  • combines elements from:

    • theory of reasoned action (Fishbein & Azjen, 1975)

    • elaboration likelihood model (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986)

    • protection motivation theory (Rogers, 1983)

Phm elements
PHM elements

  • Threat message

    • Perceived risk

      • Audience must feel susceptible to threat

    • Perceived severeity

      • Audience must perceive threat as severe (BUT, must not overpower efficacy or will create backlash of fear, defense)

  • Efficacy message

    • Self-efficacy

      • Self-confidence in one’s own ability to carry out behavior

    • Response-effiacy

      • Belief in the recommended response’s effectiveness

Message cues
Message Cues

  • peripheral cues (credibility/attractiveness of source)

    • peripheral processing happens when people are uninvolved with the topic or message; used to catch attention

  • central cues (arguments in content)

    • central processing occurs when topic is relevant and seen as important; used after attention is gotten

  • message variables (source and appeal)

    • most message variables tend to be processed peripherally

Targeting to audience
Targeting to Audience

  • Audience profile –

    • it is important that message fit audience’s demographic, psychographic, cultural beliefs and values, etc.

  • Salient beliefs

    • beliefs about the threat and efficacy of recommended response

  • Salient referents

    • beliefs about what is important to others, what others believe about the threat, and how important those others’ views are to the target individual

  • Culture and environment preferences

    • demographic, psychographics; potential logistical barriers; media channel preferences; etc.

Theory of reasoned action
Theory of Reasoned Action

  • Fishbein & Azjen:

    • to change behavior you must change underlying salient beliefs, identify which salient beliefs counter the recommended behavior, and determine and address salient referents/social norms – then design message.

Using phm
Using PHM

  • Three-step process:

    • Determine information about threat and efficacy

    • Develop audience profile

    • Construct persuasive message

Step 1
Step 1

  • Determining info about threat and efficacy

    • determine salient beliefs and salient referents

    • specify behavioral goal (recommended response)

    • clearly identify target audience (original research or lit review, see tables 8.1-2; see Appendix for sample survey for salient beliefs).

    • Barriers to self-efficacy are especially important to determine and must be addressed in the message.

Step 2
Step 2

  • Audience profile is developed –

    • assess audience cultural and environmental information to develop cues

    • use census records, survey research, interviews

    • channel, message and source preferences must be identified.

Step 3
Step 3

  • Persuasive message is constructed –

    • must fit with salient beliefs, salient referents and specific audience (transient components)

    • can try to reinforce existing beliefs, change beliefs, or introduce new beliefs

    • reinforcement is easiest

      • frame recommendation within audience’s current belief system.

Prior research
Prior Research

  • Campaign to promote specific safety behaviors among farmers

    • Salient beliefs:

      • Injuries are common and severe, but susceptibility is low (farmers don’t feel at personal risk).

      • Believe that safety measures are effective, and feel self-efficacy for doing safety measures, but don’t necessarily use them.

      • High perceived severity

      • Low perceived risk (susceptibility)

Farmers campaign cont d
Farmers’ campaign (cont’d)

  • Preferred channel:

    • Manufacturer’s safety manual

  • Preferred source:

    • Equipment company

  • Message concept:

    • Perceived susceptibility needs to be changed. Other beliefs should be reinforced. Need to target specific behaviors.