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Are public service announcements effective when using fear appeals to convince people of something, such as safe sex to cease the spread of AIDS? I believe they are not. There are three reasons I believe this. The first reason is in light of the Elaboration Likelihood Theory, which depends on the way people process message. People use one of two routes when evaluating messages in the public service announcements, the central and peripheral. The second reason is fear appeals tend to be less effective when used in short televised public announcements. They are more appropriate for formats that allow more elaborate and longer messages to reinforce self-efficacy. The third and final reason is communication campaigns advocating safe sex should have personal relevance of the topic as the first goal.
The first reason I believe public service announcements are not effective when using fear appeals is because of the elaboration likelihood theory. The theory is best used when evaluating persuasive messages. The central route is the first route used when viewing a public service announcement. A person elaborating on persuasive message will seriously think about the message being perceived. When the messages become confusing people will switch to using the peripheral route.
According to Elaboration Likelihood, high involvement with an issue is associated with central processing which focuses on the quality of the arguments in the messages. However, peripheral processing marks low involvement. The Elaboration Likelihood would argue that involvement would interact with spokesperson and appeal, so that spokesperson and appeal will be less involved participants.
The second reason why I believe fear appeals do not affect people is because of the length of public service announcements. According to Spokesperson Sex and PSA Appeal, although PSA included important fear appeal features (threat and fear), it might not have presented enough information to cue feelings. Studies have proven that when public service announcements are less than fifty seconds long, participants will not be able to analyze to the fullest extent. At times, the feeling of anger or even sadness would appear.
The test was consisted of a paired sample tests that contrasted the affect induced by each of the 31 fear appeal PSA\'s with the feeling state prior to viewing any messages. The studies showed that 61% of the PSA\'s produced a significant increase in self-reported fear. The results of the remaining 39% showed either the feeling of surprise, puzzlement and even happiness. (Dillard 1996)
I conducted my own personal study with three students in their early twenties. They did not know that I was going to ask them questions, since I wanted to see if they really paid attention. I taped two public service announcements and showed it to the participants. One of the PSA\'s was 25 seconds long, while the other was one minute long. The shorter PSA was very brief and to the point while the other was long and detailed. When I questioned the participants, I first asked what did they think about the shorter PSA. They all answered that they really were not paying that much attention. On the other hand, the longer PSA caught their attention, it was really specific and to the point. All the participants agreed that the 60-second PSA had more information and did in fact induce some fear and thought about message being given.
The third and final reason for the reason as to why I do not believe that public service announcements are not effective is because the communication campaigns advocating safe sex should have personal relevance of the topic as the first goal. According to Health Communication, consistent with expectations, participants\' sense of personal relevance or involvement with AIDS was a significant factor in spokesperson and PSA evaluation. However, more involved participants rated the spokesperson as more credible and the PSA as more effective. (Pierce, Nathanson, Mcleod 1996)
One example of personal relevance is the use of condoms. Studies have proven that men care more about the satisfaction of women during sexual intercourse. Therefore an advertisement with a women with a condom will attract men more than it will women. Another example of personal relevance is when Hispanics make a public service announcement it affected the Hispanic community more than the Caucasian. Therefore the effect of
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Attitude change, Social psychology, Elaboration likelihood model, Fear appeal, Persuasion, Public service announcement
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