Random House Webster’s Dictionary Essay
Random House Webster’s Dictionary
FEAR is defined as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil or pain; a specific instance of or propensity for fear; concern or anxiety, solicitude” (Random House Webster’s Dictionary, 4th Ed. ). Where fear is concerned, though it is deemed as a negative emotional state by many, life will become unreal. This paper will try to explain why fear is essential to an individual’s healthy outlook. Weighing on the polarities of this particular affect, one will see the necessity of this kind of emotion which is processed by the body’s amygdala.
Although social psychology literature is extensive, there are yet inconclusive evidences as to how fear actually work towards its positive effect. Volumes of literature attest to both positive and negative effects of fear especially in its role to convince. Because of this, it is very important that one examines the specific instances where fear can be said to be effective in positive manner as well as in a negative way. The following scenarios will, at the least, illustrate where fear is helpful, and where it is detrimental or destructive.
In the study of anti-nuclear recruiting to raise concern on a possible nuclear holocaust, it is said that the matter about nuclear use is so prevalent these days that common people, when presented with the threat of its use, tend to shrug off the idea and need to be convinced of the danger it poses (Sandman & Valenti, 1986). Why the indifference? Inspite of the campaigns of nuclear “Armageddon,” the majority of people still seemed to be apathetic about any threat at all.
Perhaps, according to studies, people already get beyond fear to numbness. In the study by Sandman and Valenti, the authors said that this has something to do with what they termed as “likely occurrence” versus “horrible consequence. ” They cited as an example the success of drunken driving campaigns due to the likelihood of losing one’s driver’s license rather than losing a life (which is an instance of horrible consequence). How is this so? These authors said that to terrify a person who is already afraid will be of no use to that person.
The likelihood of a horrible consequence, probably to most people, is not that immediate. The common response is apathy. So the best approach to this situation according to Sandman and Valenti is reassurance-the reinforcement of what they call the four “antidotes” namely, “anger, hope, love and action. ” This implies simply that fear in this instance is negative in effect. Fear has to be reduced when it comes to scenarios like recruiting people to take up commitment and/or advocacy towards certain important matters of concern like the threat of nuclear war.
To sustain the cause, the four aforementioned agenda will be the likely steps taken rather than inducing fear or “terrorizing the terrorized with more terror” (Sandman & Valenti, 1986). It is also maintained that fear is indispensable and a fact of life. If truth be told, more often, studies would show its efficacy in persuading people to action or to some to change their minds on something or someone. This happens to political campaigns where some PR managers become household names also due to their ability to introduce a virtually unknown person and catapult them to notoriety.
This may entail a positive or negative implication, depending on the perceptions of people and the motives or machinations of those wanting to be in the limelight. How will fear appeal be very effective and its use in persuasive communication be ethically and morally right or justified? Here is a scenario: a certain school whose graduating class of 29 students filed a complaint on one of its faculty, citing misconduct unbecoming of someone in authority on the basis of corruption. They submitted a detailed account of what transpired during a semester with this certain professor in their department.
When confronted with the dean regarding the response made by the professor, and the possibility of court cases filed against the whole class, the students decided to make a retraction of their complaints. Their lame excuse was that given their naivete or inexperience, the college and the authorities (including the accused professor) then investigating them, should look into the charges they made against the professor as mere questions in need of answers and not as accusatory gestures that are morally and professionally damaging to the concerned professor.
They have decided to retract, corporately, because their adviser enlightened them of the repercussions of their written complaint (i. e. , possible non-graduation, and a host of other possible consequences). This is a picture of an effective fear appeal. Their retraction did not mean they have changed their prejudiced mind against the professor, rather, their immediate concern is their graduation which is barely two months away, and the possibility of a smeared reputation when time comes they will be applying for work.
This illustration gives an example of the kind of fear appeal where the Stage model (Das, 2001) is applied. The students in the illustration responded to this appeal positively, although it was only short term. They responded positively because they had their graduation in mind which is upcoming. As Enny Das states it, human beings act the way they do because of underlying motivations (Das, 2001). Fear is an important factor in the way people act and decide.
In the first scenario, fear is portrayed as negative in effect to certain cases such as anti nuclear campaigns recruitment. According to social scientists, there are behavioral and attitudinal changes that work temporarily and others permanently or in a considerable length of time. Where the first scenario is concerned, advocates for the awareness of anti-nuclear holocaust and recruitment of activists for their cause have this problem before them: how to convince people from their “numbness” to action and stay on with it.
As Sandman and Valenti proposed it, the procedures they advocated, instead of high dose of fear, a good measure of reassurance based on anger, love, hope and action, (“4 antidotes of numbness”) should be followed (Sandman, Valenti, 1986). This makes sense according to the Dual-process model, where it is “postulated that systematic processing of a persuasive message will result in more stable attitudes, intentions, and behavior” (Das, 2001). However, people should perceive a certain degree of possible threat/danger if they are to process the information systematically and hence, maintain a long term coping of that threat/danger.
The second scenario is best explained based on the Stage model of fear appeals. It assumes that individuals process the information on a “heuristic processing of subsequently presented recommendation” which is predictably less lasting in a period of time (Das, 2001). Considering that the second scenario, referring to their decision to retract from their complaints only because of an impending graduation which is threatened by the case they filed on the alleged professor, is actually a very unstable decision, and understandably will only weaken in the passing of time (Das, 2001).
The study of fear and its effects continue to arrest curiosity and interest as well as confusion. There needs to be more studies to discover how the occurrence of attitude and behavioral changes where fear appeals are concerned, affects decision making whether positively, to the advantage of the individual, or negatively, to the detriment or disadvantages of the one paralyzed by fear. It is assumed that scenarios like these will continue to attract both enthusiasts and experts alike in the study of behavior.
Reference: 1. Random House Webster’s Dictionary. 2001. 4th Ed. , Ballantine Books, New York. 2. Sandman, Peter M. , JoAnn M. Valenti. 1986. Scared Stiff – or Scared into Action.. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. New York. P. 12-16 accessed in www. psandman. com 3. Das, Enny Henrica Helena Johanna . 2001.
How fear Appeals Work: motivational biases in the processing of fear-arousing health communications. www. library. uu. nl/digiarchief/dip/diss/1975035/inhoud. htm.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 21 April 2017
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