The stress response system is highly adaptive, and has kept humans, zebras, and calves alive through history. But today it leaves humans in distress, whereas zebras are fine. And calves suffer stress as humans do… but for a different reason: humans themselves.
On 17 June 2020, police officers observed a car driving onto a motorway, swerving unpredictably. The officers saw the driver was using their phone and pulled the car over. Several kilos of drugs were then discovered in the car, and the driver was arrested on suspicion of violating the Opium Act.
Showing gory pictures of cancerous lungs, videos of forest fires, and graphs of exponentially increasing infection rates are familiar tactics to scare people into different behavior. But how effective are fear appeals? Six decades of research provides some answers.