The influence of fear and authority on psychological reactance: a study of the effectiveness of public service announcement campaigns on drunk driving prevention among college students

Zhang, Xiaotong
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This study investigates the influence of psychological reactance on the campaign message of "preventing drunk driving" to college students; it is based on different levels of source authority and fear appeal. 146 undergraduate students were divided into five groups to take an online survey examining their cognition with respect to different types of posters. Their perceived degrees of threat to freedom, psychological reactance, attitudes, and behavioral intention were tested among five hypotheses and one research question. This study found that: (1) Participants' psychological reactance was significantly related with their threat to freedom, but strongly negatively related with both attitude and behavioral intention to follow the advice in the posters; (2) The level of source authority of spokespersons in the campaign was positively-related with psychological reactance; (3) A high level of fear appeal of message content significantly generated a significantly higher psychological reactance; (4) There was no significant interaction between level of source authority and level of fear appeal on psychological reactance.

Journalism and Mass Communication, drunk driving, fear appeal, persuasiveness, psychological reactance, source authority