The effects of narrative exemplars and fear appeals on promoting preventive skin cancer behaviors

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This dissertation investigated the effects of narrative exemplars and fear appeals on individuals' health-risk perception toward skin cancer, attitude toward the preventive behavior, and coping responses, with need for cognition, self-efficacy and response efficacy as moderators. This dissertation employed a 2 (message type: narrative exemplar vs. base-rate information) × 2 (threat: high vs. low) factorial between-subject design. A total of 251 college students participated in the experiment. A high-threat message describing the severe consequences of not protecting one's skin and the high susceptibility to skin cancer both directly and indirectly impacted individuals' perceptions of skin cancer risk and their intention to perform a coping response. Fear mediated the effects of threat information on individuals' health risk perception and intention for the coping responses. In addition, when they read a high-threat message, high efficacy individuals believed that the recommendation outlined in the messages produced the desired outcome and the threat could be averted, therefore, they were more likely to accept the recommended behavior in the messages than their lower counterparts. Moreover, need for cognition did not have an effect on the reported transportation when processing narrative exemplars, although participants who read the narrative exemplars reported higher transportation than those who read the base-rate information messages. Theoretical and practical implications were discussed.

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