Episode Summary

In this episode, we take a deep dive into a research paper about using fear or shock tactics to inspire behavior change when it comes to health and safety communication. Motor vehicle safety adverts are one of the more common references for this type of method of communication. We discuss what the research has found on the effectiveness of communicating in this way and why it sometimes has the opposite effect.

Episode Notes

The reason we are talking about this today, is because this tactic is often used in workplace safety videos and we ask whether or not it works for everyone, how well it works for workplace safety and whether its even ethical in the first place, regardless of its efficacy.


  • Deciding to discuss shock tactics/threat appeals in the podcast
  • Do they have a place in organization safety management?
  • Ethics behind using fear tactics
  • The research paper introduction
  • About the authors
  • How does fear connect with persuasion?
  • Too much fear-mongering
  • Adaptive vs maladaptive response to the message
  • General problems with research in fear messaging
  • Practical takeaways
  • Six things that determine how people respond to the message:
  1. The severity of the fear 
  2. Susceptibility
  3. Relevance
  4. Efficacy 
  5. The wear-out effect
  6. The credibility of the message


“Just because something is effective, still doesn’t necessarily make it OK.”  – Dr. Drew Rae

“The amount of fear doesn’t seem to determine which path someone goes down, it just determines the likelihood that they are going to hit one of these paths very strongly.” – Dr. Drew Rae

“Communication which gives people an action that they can take right at the time they receive the communication is likely to be quite useful. Communication that just generally conveys a message about safety is not.” – Dr. Drew Rae


Griffith University Safety Science Innovation Lab

The role of fear appeals in improving driver safety (Research Paper)