The Role of Construal Fit in Threat Appeal to Persuade Young Drivers Not to Text while Driving

Journal of Social Marketing.

Abstract: This paper aims to investigate the effect of matching social distance (proximal vs. distant) and the visual rhetoric style (literal vs. metaphorical) of the threatful outcome of texting while driving in persuading young drivers. To this end, this research conducts a series of 2 (social distance frame: close vs. distant) × 2 (visual rhetoric style: literal vs. metaphorical) online experiments on the perspective of construal level theory. This study identified that a fit between social distance and visual rhetoric style of the threat enhances the effect of a social marketing campaign targeting young adults. A message framed in terms of socially proximal entities shows a favorable impact on young drivers’ threat perception and behavioral intention when the visual rhetoric depicts the threats of texting while driving more concrete. On the other hand, more distant social entities in the message show a better impact when the threats are visualized in metaphor. This paper enhances the understanding of threat appeal message design by adding empirical evidence of matching visual rhetoric style and social distance. The findings provide theoretical and practical implications for social marketing campaigns, regarding the strategic tailoring of messages, particularly in PSAs that discourage texting while driving on young adults.

Dong Jae (Jay) Lim 

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