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Fear Reduction (Relief)


2.3 Fear and Fear Reduction (Relief) .1 Fear

2.3.2 Fear Reduction (Relief)

Relief is an emotion that is normally preceded by some other higher level of arousal, such as fear, or anxiety, that is, relief generally cannot occur without the precursor of the emotion of fear, and is a result of the removal or reduction of the fearful feeling.

For the purpose of this study, relief means a reduction in fear, termed "fear-reduction".

The cause of fear reduction within anti-speeding advertisements is less clear than what evokes fear arousal. In regard to fear appeal anti-speeding television commercials,

relief could be caused purely b y the removal of the negative image on the screen.

However, it is expected that this would only cause slight relief. More complete fear reduction would be generated by demonstrating or recommending the safer behaviour, and establishing a calmer situation in which it can be seen that no one is injured as a result of driving within the speed limit.

2.4 Patterns of Fear

A pattern of fear is the sequence of fear arousal and fear reduction, if any, that is felt by the viewing audience when exposed to a fear appeal advertisement. The possibilities for

different classifications of fear reduction include no reduction in fear {fear-only), partial reduction in fear (fear-partial relief), or complete reduction in fear (fear-relief).

2.4.1 Two Types of Fear Patterns: Fear-Only and Fear-Relief

Two theoretical fear patterns are tested for this study: fear-only with no relief (drive increase) and fear-relief (drive reduction). Fear-Only Pattern

A fear-only pattern (Figure 2.1), commonly used in road safety is advertising, is created by only arousing fear and not providing relief components within an advertisement that would cause fear reduction.

Figure 2.1: Fear-only pattern (no reduction in fear)


Duration of advertisement

The fear-only pattern is based on the instrumental avoidance learning paradigm of

positive punishment of the bad behaviour, technically, a negative consequence is turned on. That is, if a person performs the bad behaviour - speeding - they will be punished by experiencing the negative consequences of that action. After viewing fear-only anti-speeding television commercials the audience is expected to think of, maybe visualise and emotionally "feel" the negative consequence whenever they are tempted to speed.

Australian road safety authorities currently favour the use of the positive punishment approach for deterring speeding. The popular use of "shock" advertising ("if you speed, people will die") that evokes fear and does not alleviate this feeling, thus termed a fear-only advertisement, is an example of positive punishment.

Recent examples in Australia are the T V advertisements "Trike" (aired in Western

Australia), that began with young children riding tricycles on a driveway and ended with one of the children riding onto the road and being run over by a speeding car, and

"Four-Wheel-Drive" (aired in Victoria), in which a young mother, who was running late

person's child. Both fear-only advertisements finished after the image of a dead body

was shown, thus the viewer was left feeling fearful and tense, with no fear reduction.

Table 2.1 provides a similar example of these advertisements.

Table 2.1: Example of a fear-only pattern anti-speeding advertisement


T h e advertisement would show a driver w h o w a s speeding, and as a

result lost control of his car, drove off the road and smashed his car into a light-pole and killed himself, with viewers being shown the graphic

image of a dead body.

There are several criticisms of using positive punishment to change behaviour. Job

(1988, p.164) notes that "a major disadvantage of punishment as a procedure is that it does not provide direction to a healthier behaviour, whereas reinforcement produces strengthening of specific behaviours". Punishment is like saying '"no, don't do that', without suggesting what could be done in its place" (Job, 1988, p. 164).

Also, the arousal could, in the short term, carry over and exacerbate an unsafe behaviour, such as speeding (Zillmann and Weaver, 1999). Zillmann and Weaver

(1999) believe that high fear advertisements actually increase the undesirable behaviour (such as smoking). For example, habitual speeders may see high fear advertisements

and actually amplify their behaviour, just as Hull's learning theory says that a drive, such as fear, will amplify the dominant response (Hull, 1951; Zillmann and Weaver,

1999), and will actually increase the tendency to speed if the target audience already have the habit of speeding.

Janis and Feshbach (1953) concluded that high fear advertisements that leave the viewer

feeling strongly aroused could either cause the audience to minimise the importance of the threat or ignore the threat entirely as a coping mechanism. This finding was also supported in studies by Janis (1967) and Rogers (1983). One of the reasons for this response was discussed in Leventhal's (1971) paper on smoking behaviour; the study found that a high fear appeal, without relief messages, may actually undermine a person's ability to conceive of himself/herself as coping with or controlling the behaviour. That is, "there is much experimental data suggesting that increasing

vulnerability whilst stimulating fear reduces acceptance of protective recommendations"

(Leventhal, 1971, p. 1215). Leventhal thus postulated that there are two processes occurring to cope with threat or fear arousing communications: there is fear control, whereby the viewer focuses on the emotions caused by the threat; and there is danger control, that involves focusing on the danger that the threat poses and involves protective actions of adaptive behaviours. Low to moderate levels of fear, or advertisements containing fear and recommendations, can make the viewer focus on

overcoming the danger, rather than the fear. Thus, there might be a positive effect on the desired attitude or behaviour. In contrast, it is argued that high fear advertisements, or advertisements with no relief messages or recommendations, tend to enhance the fear control process that could result in either no change or a negative change in attitude or behaviour

The Protection Motivation model (Roger 1975) proposed that fear messages should

include: first, a magnitude of noxiousness; second, the conditional probability of the event occurring if there is no behaviour change; and third, availability and effectiveness of coping responses, to reduce or eliminate the noxious stimuli. A high fear

advertisement, or advertisement with no recommendations or relief components, does

not include the third step suggested by Roger (1975), hence the viewer feels fear arousal with no fear reduction. Roger (1975) argued that the relationship is multiplicative, that suggests that if there is no fear reducing message (condition three) then, even if the first two conditions are well depicted, there will be no effect on behaviour.

More recently, Moore and Harris (1996, p.37) also concluded that "fear-inducing shock advertisements may produce excessive levels of anxiety that may pose a genuine threat to the psychological well-being of the message recipient," resulting in avoidance responses. This finding relates back to Leventhal's (1971) Parallel Response theory (discussed above). Witte and Allen (2000) also supported this view, arguing that fear control resulted in maladaptive behaviours, particularly for high-risk segments, such as speeders. High fear advertisements, without recommendations, may result in viewers

not focusing on how to remove the danger but rather focusing on how to eliminate their feelings of fear, that could involve switching channels or ignoring the advertisement, counter-arguing with the message, or dismissing that the danger could happen to them (Witte and Allen, 2000; Witte and Morrison, 2000).

Fear appeals create tension (physiological and psychological activation) that motivates the audience to reduce those feelings. If this tension is not excessive then it will cause feelings of energy (Henthorne, La Tour and Nataraajan, 1993; La Tour and Pitts, 1989;

Thayer, 1978), with energy being a positive influence on behavioural intentions.

However, at higher levels of tension, energy is diminished as the tension created by the fear stimuli overpowers the feelings of energy that results in a negative effect on behavioural intention (La Tour and Zahra, 1989; Henthorne, La Tour and Nataraajan,

1993). A fear-only pattern advertisement, particularly the "shock" subtype

advertisement, is likely to result in excessive tension that dominates any feelings of energy that is not optimal for behaviour change. Fear-Relief Pattern

A fear-relief'pattern involves arousing fear and causing the audience to experience an unpleasant feeling that is then reduced by showing the consequences of the

recommended behaviour (e.g., Job, 1988).

A partial reduction in fear (see Figure 2.2) would result if an advertisement aroused fear and then only partly reduced this fearful feeling. For example, partial reduction might be achieved if the advertisement described in Table 2.1 was adapted to incorporate some relief components, such as showing better scenarios or more positive images that are described in Table 2.2. Only partial relief may be experienced as the adaptation in Table 2.2 shows a different driver.

Figure 2.2: Fear-relief (partial reduction in fear)


Duration of advertisement

Table 2.2: E x a m p l e of a fear-partial-reliefpattern anti-speeding advertisement


Partial Relief

T h e advertisement would show a driver w h o w a s speeding, and as a result lost control of his car, drove off the road and smashed his car into a light-pole and killed himself, with viewers being shown the graphic image of a dead body.

This tension and unpleasant feeling could then be reduced (relieved) b y viewers being shown a different driver w h o is not speeding and

as a result safely arrives at their destination.

Complete reduction in fear (see Figure 2.3) would follow the advertising sequence of

increasing fear and then providing relief components to the advertisement that would

completely eliminate the fear arousal. To possibly achieve this pattern of fear and relief a road safety advertisement would still show the advertisement described in Table 2.1, and would then show a second part, that is described in Table 2.3, and that contains two different relief components.

Figure 2.3: Fear-relief (complete reduction in fear)


Duration of advertisement

Table 2.3: E x a m p l e of a fear-complete-reliefpattern anti-speeding advertisement


T h e advertisement would show a driver w h o w a s speeding, and as a

result lost control of his car, drove off the road and smashed his car into a light-pole and killed himself, with viewers being shown the graphic

image of a dead body.


T h e advertisement then showed a rewind of the situation presented in

the first part of the advertisement, followed by visuals of the same driver alive again and driving along the same stretch of road, not speeding, and then arriving safely at his destination, perhaps joyously greeted by a loved one.