Journal of the Association for Information Systems


A substantial amount of previous research has examined the efficacy of fear appeals to elicit security-enhancing behaviors from users. However, despite more than a decade of research on fear appeals in security contexts, researchers have yet to understand which factors drive users’ responses to fear appeals. Instead, the literature is riddled with inconsistent findings on the antecedents that predict fear-appeal outcomes, fueling controversy and inhibiting progress on the problem. This research addresses the inconsistent findings by using construal level theory (CLT) to explain how temporal distance and argument nature affect fear-appeal appraisal. Based on two online experiments, we report evidence showing that temporal distance determines which antecedents drive fear-appeal outcomes, which helps explain inconsistent results found in prior literature. Moreover, we found that depending on the temporal distance condition, argument nature (i.e., “how” or “why” arguments) can impact the effectiveness of fear appeals. Overall, our findings refine the understanding of when certain factors influence users’ responses to fear appeals and provide guidance for future research on how to create more effective fear appeals.





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