Friday, 6 January 2017
Publication: Fear campaigns and control appraisals: creating messages that matter in road safety
In Australia road safety advertising often highlights the consequences of risky driving through the portrayal of graphic car crash scenes. Many health promotion researchers have cautioned that employing these types of messages may be ineffective and lead to defensive responses such as avoidance, particularly where efficacy perceptions are low. Identifying road outcomes characterised by high perceived control in populations may be crucial to overcoming avoidance and consequently aid in the creation of effective messages. However, such hypotheses are rarely examined. The present study employed a within subjects design where community participants (n = 228) read information highlighting the risks of dangerous driving. The information portrayed risky behaviour leading to road crash and legal sanction outcomes in two separate essays. The delivery of the information was counterbalanced and recall for each message was measured using surprise recall tasks. Perceptions of risk and efficacy were also assessed for both outcomes. Results demonstrated that threat and efficacy appraisals were independently related to recall of the legal sanction information. Specifically, increases in threat and efficacy were related to increases in recall. No such relationships were demonstrated for the crash outcome information. These findings suggest that the identification of controllable outcomes may be the key to overcoming avoidance of threatening road safety advertisements. Results are discussed in light of current fear appeal theory and best practice health promotion in road safety.