Perceived effectiveness of fear appeals in AIDS education: relationship to ethnicity, gender, age, and group membership

AIDS Educ Prev. 1990 Spring;2(1):1-11.


A study was conducted with 261 community residents, college students, and intravenous drug users to investigate perceived effectiveness of fear appeals in AIDS education posters. Experimental posters with high-fear pictures portraying severe consequences of AIDS and low-fear posters that were neutral regarding disease severity were evaluated in terms of their perceived effectiveness in motivating people to use condoms. Posters also contained written messages communicating high and low levels of personal vulnerability and response efficacy. High-severity/fear posters were rated as significantly more effective than low-severity/fear posters (p less than .0001), but response efficacy and personal vulnerability were significant only in interaction with other variables (p less than .01). Age, gender, ethnicity, and group membership did not, in general, influence rated effectiveness. However, group membership and age were significant as interactions with severity/fear level and response efficacy, respectively (p less than .01). Subjects showed no differential preference for posters portraying individuals whose ethnicity was the same as their own. Findings confirmed previous research supporting the effectiveness of fear appeals and suggest that fear-oriented appeals may be effective in promoting changes in community norms and motivating individuals to adopt AIDS risk-reduction strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / psychology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Audiovisual Aids*
  • Contraceptive Devices, Male
  • Ethnicity
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Health Education / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Peer Group
  • Sex Factors