Effects of fear on risk and control judgements and memory: Implications for health promotion messages
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Health promotion messages that evoke fear are often used to decrease unrealistic optimism regarding risks, convince people to control their behaviour, and make risks memorable. The relations among emotions, risk and control judgements, and memory are not well understood, however. In the current study, participants (N = 94) were assigned to fearful, angry, happy, or neutral emotion-elicitation conditions. They then rated the likelihood of experiencing 15 negative and 15 positive matched outcomes and rated their degree of control over each outcome. A surprise memory test followed. Fear decreased unrealistic optimism, but the greater the intensity of fear reported the less control participants believed they had over outcomes. Fear also led to poorer memory for outcomes. Across all participants, the lower their ratings of optimism and control concerning outcomes, the less likely they were to recall them. Implications for the use of emotionally evocative material in health promotion messages are discussed. 2005 Psychology Press Ltd.