Research Article

An application of protection motivation theory to understand the influence of fear-appeal media on stated donations for coral reef restoration

Publication Date:

Authors: Courtney Suess, Jay E. Maddock, Marco Palma, Omar Youssef and Gerard Kyle


This study applied a Protection Motivation Theory (PMT) framework and Extended Parallel Process Model to explore respondents’ emotional and behavioral responses to video treatments that messaged varied outcomes for coral reef health and pro-environmental behavioral adaption. Four video treatments manipulating fear-appeal messaging with higher or lower proportions of content focused on threats to coral reefs and reassurance about coral reef restoration were presented to respondents (n = 1636). Messaging with equal proportions of threat and reassurance stimulated higher arousal, which had the greatest impact on stated behavioral intent to donate for coral reef restoration. Negative-affectivity, driven by higher proportions of threat in video messaging, was also related to higher stated donations. Sub-group comparisons revealed respondents who had taken vacations in coral reef destinations were significantly more aroused by the videos and stated higher donations than those who had not. PMT antecedents threat-appraisal, coping-appraisal, and response-costs dynamically influenced emotional responses to fear-appeal videos.