Fear-Mongering or Fact-Driven? Illuminating the Interplay of Objective Risk and Emotion-Evoking Form in the Response to Epidemic News

Celine Klemm, Tilo Hartmann, Enny Das

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined the veracity of the common assumption that news coverage of epidemic outbreaks spawns heightened fears and risk perceptions. An online experiment with 1,324 participants investigated the interplay of the form of news coverage (factual/emotion-laden) and key aspects of actual risk (low/high vulnerability, low/high severity) on audience responses. Participants read one of eight versions of a newspaper article followed by measures on risk perceptions, negative affect, behavioral intentions, and perceived sensationalism. Risk perceptions and fear were primarily driven by objective risk characteristics, whereas emotion-laden news form only increased perceptions of disease severity, not of fear or personal vulnerability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-83
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

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