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Adding hope to mitigate defensive responses: the effect of guilt+hope appeals in road safety campaigns

Bingjing Mao (TSET Health Promotion and Research Center, Stephenson Cancer Center, University of Oklahoma Health Science Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA)
Nicholas Carcioppolo (Department of Communication Studies, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, USA)
Shiyun Tian (Department of Marketing, Jack Welch College of Business & Technology, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Connecticut, USA)
Tyler R. Harrison (Department of Communication Studies, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, USA)

Journal of Social Marketing

ISSN: 2042-6763

Article publication date: 14 November 2023

Issue publication date: 2 January 2024

100

Abstract

Purpose

Guilt appeals are increasingly being used in road safety campaigns, despite recent research that has raised doubts about their effectiveness and the potential for triggering defensive responses. Building on the extended parallel process model, this study aims to add to this growing body of research by evaluating whether combining a hope message with guilt appeals can solve this problem.

Design/methodology/approach

An online experiment with a 2 (Appeal type: Guilt vs Guilt+hope) × 2 (Language intensity: Low vs High) between-subjects design was conducted. A total of 399 participants recruited from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk were randomized to view one of the four advertisements discouraging texting while driving (TWD). Their affective responses, perceptions about the advertisements and intentions to not TWD were measured.

Findings

The results showed that compared to guilt-only appeals, guilt+hope appeals directly reduced defensive responses (i.e. perceived manipulative intent and anger) across varying levels of language intensity. In addition, guilt+hope appeals mitigated the negative impacts of manipulative intent on intended emotions and intentions to not TWD.

Originality/value

Findings of this study mark the first to support the idea that communicating hope within guilt appeals is a promising social marketing strategy to discourage TWD.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Funding: This work was supported by the Graduate Student Fellowship, The Center for Communication, Culture, and Change, School of Communication, University of Miami.

Citation

Mao, B., Carcioppolo, N., Tian, S. and Harrison, T.R. (2024), "Adding hope to mitigate defensive responses: the effect of guilt+hope appeals in road safety campaigns", Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 52-72. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSOCM-03-2023-0053

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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