Message Appeal Effectiveness in Distracted Driving Public Service Announcements

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Hill, Emily Catherine
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Middle Tennessee State University
Message appeal research concerning the effectiveness of Public Service Announcements (PSAs) has yielded inconsistent results across many message subjects. Little research on message appeal effectiveness exists concerning distracted driving PSAs. This study utilized a 2 x 4 factorial design (Question order condition: Distracted driving behavior in pre-test vs. Distracted driving behavior in post-test x Message appeal: Control vs. Empathy vs. Fear vs. Informational) to determine which commonly used message appeal was most effective in changing attitudes and behaviors and whether personal impact or distracted driving behavior had any impact on the messages effectiveness. The study used the Elaboration Likelihood Model of Persuasion (ELM), which describes the processes through which attitudes change, as a theoretical framework. Analyses revealed that the empathy appeal was the only message that created a positive attitude change, in that participants’ acceptance of distracted driving decreased in the post-test. The control appeal resulted in a negative attitude change, in that participants’ acceptance of distracted driving increased in the post-test. There was no significant change in either the fear or informational appeals. These results lend partial support to the ELM.
Distracted driving, Message appeals, Public service announcements