Title

Making online HIV/AIDS PSAs more effective

Date of Award

2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Mass Communications

Advisor(s)

George Comstock

Keywords

Online, HIV/AIDS, AIDS, HIV, Public service announcements, Attention, Fear appeals, Arousal, Sexual appeals

Subject Categories

Communication | Mass Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract

This study investigates the effects of fear appeals and sexual appeals on information processing of online HIV/AIDS-prevention public service announcements (PSAs) in terms of attention, arousal and memory under the framework of Limited Capacity Model of Motivated Mediated Messages (LC4MP). The experiment, with a 2 by 2 within-subject design, was conducted both in the lab ( N = 77) and online ( N =108). The difference is that subjects in the lab were measured for physiological attention and arousal while online subject were not. Physiological and self-reported data consistently show that high sexual appeals increase attention and enhance arousal. Self-reported data show that high fear appeals increase attention and enhance arousal, but physiological data don't support it. Self-reported data show that high fear appeals and high sexual appeals may lead to poorer cued recognition. Videos using both high fear appeals and high sexual appeals are most attention getting and most arousing, but they lead to poorer cued recognition, probably due to cognitive overload.

In addition, this study investigates the persuasive power of fear appeals and sexual appeals in terms of perceived message effectiveness, attitude towards and intention of safe sex. High fear appeals and high sexual appeals both persuade people to use a condom more often to prevent HIV/AIDS. The combined use of high fear appeals and high sexual appeals leads to the most persuasive messages. Fear appeals predict attitude towards and intention of safe sex directly and through perceived threat. Sexual appeals do not predict attitude towards and intention of safe sex.

In conclusion, sexual appeals are effective strategies to raise people's awareness, although they do not lead to more positive attitude towards and intention of safe sex. Fear appeals may enhance attention and arousal, but when fear appeals are too high, they may backfire. However, they predict attitude towards and intention of safe sex, so fear appeals are effective strategies to change attitude and intention. Videos with both high fear appeals and high sexual appeals are most attention getting, most arousing, and most persuasive, but they may lead to poorer cued recognition due to cognitive overload.

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