The Effect of Priming on the Effectiveness of Threat Appeals


  • Birgit Wauters Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Faculty of Economic, Social and Political Sciences and Solvay Business School, Department of Business, Belgium
  • Malaika Brengman Vrije Universiteit Brussel





Priming can be used to activate mental representations in an unobtrusive manner, so that these unconscious mental processes influence subsequent behaviour. A prime increases the accessibility of mental information regarding a primed issue. The objective of this article is to measure how positive versus negative priming influences the processing and effectiveness of threat appeals to promote flu shots. Threat appeals are used to warn people about a possible (health) risk and to convince them to adopt the recommended behaviour. Priming was found to have an impact on the respondents’ feelings of severity and evoked fear. Also the broader environmental context was found to play an important role. This finding is interesting as it opens the door to create more effective threat appeals by controlling or influencing the affective context in which the threat appeal is displayed. An analysis of the processing patterns of the threat appeals showed that perceived severity, self and response efficacy have a positive effect on the behavioural intention to get a flu shot. This intention is also influenced by the evoked feelings of fear, which are induced by the respondents’ perceived severity. This provides further proof to confirm the Extended Parallel Process Model. The core social implication of this research is for people who are engaged in preventing diseases or unhealthy behaviours and who use awareness campaigns to reach that goal. Keywords: Social Marketing, Threat appeals, Affective priming, advertising design and effectiveness To cite this document: Birgit Wauters and Malaika Brengman, "The Effect of Priming on the Effectiveness of Threat Appeals", Contemporary Management Research, Vol.9, No.1, pp. 47-66, 2013. Permanent link to this document


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How to Cite

Wauters, B., & Brengman, M. (2013). The Effect of Priming on the Effectiveness of Threat Appeals. Contemporary Management Research, 9(1).




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