Scaring the Public: Fear Appeal Arguments in Public Health Reasoning

Informal Logic 32 (1):25-50 (2012)

The study of threat and fear appeal arguments has given rise to a sizeable literature. Even within a public health context, much is now known about how these arguments work to gain the public’s compliance with health recommendations. Notwithstanding this level of interest in, and examination of, these arguments, there is one aspect of these arguments that still remains unexplored. That aspect concerns the heuristic function of these arguments within our thinking about public health problems. Specifically, it is argued that threat and fear appeal arguments serve as valuable shortcuts in our reasoning, particularly when that reasoning is subject to biases that are likely to diminish the effectiveness of public health messages. To this extent, they are rationally warranted argument forms rather than fallacies, as has been their dominant characterization in logic
Keywords Cognitive Bias  Fear Appeal Argument  Public Health  Heuristics  Fallacy  Argumentum ad baculum
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Are Circular Arguments Necessarily Vicious?Douglas N. Walton - 1985 - American Philosophical Quarterly 22 (4):263-274.
Nonfallacious Arguments From Ignorance.Douglas Walton - 1992 - American Philosophical Quarterly 29 (4):381 - 387.

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