Motivated processing of fear appeal and disgust images in televised anti-tobacco ads

Glenn Leshner, Paul Bolls, Kevin Wise

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study experimentally tested the effects of two types of content commonly found in anti-tobacco television messages - content focused on communicating a health threat about tobacco use (fear) and content containing disgust related images - on how viewers processed these messages. In a 2 × 2 within-subjects experiment, participants watched anti-tobacco television ads that varied in the amount of fear and disgust content. The results of this study suggest that both fear and disgust content in anti-tobacco television ads have significant effects on resources allocated to encoding the messages, on recognition memory, and on emotional responses. Most interesting, although messages high in both fear and disgust content were rated the most unpleasant and arousing, these same messages reduced corrugator responses, accelerated heart rate, and worsened recognition memory. Implications for the study of motivated processing and for the construction of anti-tobacco messages are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-89
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Media Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • defensive responding
  • disgust
  • fear appeals
  • motivated processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Applied Psychology


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