The media in this country have no shame. For two months they’ve been ramping up fear and hysteria over Covid-19. They predicted apocalypse. They reported the daily death tolls like gleeful grim reapers.
And now, after all that, after pumping out 24-hour rolling doom for weeks on end, they have the gall to wonder why so many people have been too scared to visit a hospital during the pandemic. And why there has been a huge number of excess deaths from treatable ailments other than Covid-19. And why there was a policy of ‘Protecting the NHS’ at all costs from the coming viral calamity that involved sending even infected elderly people away from hospitals and back to care homes. ‘How could this happen?’, they cry.
Despite decades of research, consensus regarding the dynamics of fear appeals remains elusive. A meta-analysis was conducted that was designed to resolve this controversy. Publications that were included in previous meta-analyses were re-analysed, and a number of additional publications were located. The inclusion criteria were full factorial orthogonal manipulations of threat and efficacy, and measurement of behaviour as an outcome. Fixed and random effects models were used to compute mean effect size estimates. Meta-analysis of the six studies that satisfied the inclusion criteria clearly showed a significant interaction between threat and efficacy, such that threat only had an effect under high efficacy (d = 0.31), and efficacy only had an effect under high threat (d = 0.71). Inconsistency in results regarding the effectiveness of threatening communication can likely be attributed to flawed methodology. Proper tests of fear appeal theory yielded the theoretically hypothesised interaction effect. Threatening communication should exclusively be used when pilot studies indicate that an intervention successfully enhances efficacy.