Rethinkin the Study of Fear Appeals: An Emotional Perspective


  • James Price Dillard

    1. James Price Dillard is Professor, Department of Communication Arts and The Center For Communication Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI. 53706
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  • I would like to thank Austin Babrow, Terry Kinney, Dan O'Keefe, David Mortensen, and Kim Witte for their valuable comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.


A selective review of theories of fear appeals is carried out which concludes that these theories have gradually become divorced from the notion of fear. The forces that motivated that separation are examined and a set of arguments are advanced favoring a reunion of fear with a theory of fear appeals. As a means of achieving that union, emotion theory is reviewed and a set of axioms extracted. The axiomatic framework is then used to demonstrate how an emotional perspective on fear appeals might shed new light on this area of persuasion. Recommendations are offered for future studies of fear appeals.