Appendix: Arousal of emotions and self-referencing

Arousal of emotions (fear)

Researchers have found that the stimulation of emotions, and in particular fear, can kindle persuasion. In certain circumstances fear may cause audiences to rely upon available peripheral cues within a message.1 A fear-arousing message can include threats of physical and emotional harm, which may be linked with an enemy or opposing viewpoint. If a message provokes strong sensations of fear, and subsequently makes clear reassuring statements about the efficacy of a proposed solution to the fear-inducing problem, then message recipients seem to rely upon peripheral cues for persuasion rather than engaging in central route processing. For instance, if a communication stimulates fear in an audience and then clearly proposes a seemingly effective answer to the problem, audiences may simply rely upon the communicator’s perceived credibility when choosing to accept this recommended answer. However, if a clear reassuring solution to the fear-engendering message is not provided, then fear itself serves as a sort of cue to induce central route message processing.


Robert E. Burnkrant and H. Rao Unnava have explained that self-referencing “occurs when information is processed by relating it to aspects of oneself (e.g., one’s own personal experiences).”2 For instance, advertisers may encourage customers to personally consider what it would be like to use goods, or a communicator may solicit an audience to relate message arguments to their own life experiences. This can include providing subtle narratives in which audiences can imagine themselves participating.3 When individuals personally relate to a message, it enhances learning, message recall, and causes attitudes to become more favorable toward the communication.4 This self-referencing can also induce message processing when elaboration likelihood is low. As Kathleen Debevec and Jean B. Romeo have stated regarding advertising, if “consumers can relate commercial information to themselves, they will be more likely to process the information, thus

Appendix 261 enhancing the effectiveness of an ad.”5 Furthermore, self-referencing narratives can cause individuals to think about life experiences in the past, causing them to be transported, or immersed, into the story. This personal reflection acts in a peripheral manner to enhance persuasion without increasing message elaboration, leading “to a favorable evaluation of the advertised product, regardless of argument strength.”6


  • 1 Faith Gleicher and Richard E. Petty, “Expectations of Reassurance Influence the Nature of Fear-Stimulated Attitude Change,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 28 (1992).
  • 2 Robert E. Burnkrant and H. Rao Unnava, “Effects of Self-Referencing on Persuasion,” The Journal of Consumer Research 22, no. 1 (1995): 17.
  • 3 Jennifer Edson Escalas, “Self-Referencing and Persuasion: Narrative Transportation Versus Analytical Elaboration,” ibid. 33, no. 4 (2007).
  • 4 Joan Meyers-Levy and Laura A. Peracchio, “Moderators of the Impact of SelfReference on Persuasion,” ibid. 22 (1996): 408.
  • 5 Kathleen Debevec and Jean B. Romeo, “Self-Referent Processing in Perceptions of Verbal and Visual Commerical Information,” Journal of Consumer Psychology 1, no. 1 (1992): 83-84.
  • 6 Escalas, “Self-Referencing and Persuasion,” 422.
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source