Do Fear Appeals Increase Persuasion? Influence of Loss- Versus Gain-Framed Diversity Messages

Nicole Danielle Karpinsky


Diversity acceptance has become an important component and concern to higher education systems in preparing students to function effectively in real world settings. Persuasion by message framing may be the most current and effective way to encourage positive attitudes and behaviors regarding the topic of diversity. The purpose of this study is to measure the persuasive nature of fear appeals in response to gain- and loss-framed diversity messages. 99 undergraduate students at Westminster College were randomly induced with a happy, fearful, sad, or neutral mood, and then asked to read gain- or loss-framed messages pertaining to diversity. The Miami University Diversity Awareness Scale (MUDAS) was administered immediately after the framed messages. Following this scale, motivation was measured though the BIS/BAS Scale. A behavioral diversity activity follow-up survey was also conducted to see if students were more inclined to participate in diversity-related events after the study. Results showed that neutral mood participants were more susceptive to message framing than those who were induced with a specific emotion. Interestingly, these specific emotions appeared to neutralize the framing effects. It was also seen that motivation played an important role in participation in diversity-related activities after the study. The follow-up survey revealed strong evidence that individuals in the fearful condition were most inclined to participate in diversity-related activities compared to the other conditions. Persuasive messages are seen to arouse the emotion of fear, creating an unpleasant state that then causes the individual to become more motivated through the BIS/BAS. These findings help to support the idea that fear is a successful means to influencing the attitudes or behaviors of an individual into participating in more diverse activities to reduce or remove this state of being.


Gain- framed message, Loss- framed message, Fear appeals

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