Adding Hope to Mitigate Defensive Responses: The Effect of Guilt+Hope Appeals in Road Safety Campaigns

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date




Guilt appeals are increasingly being used in road safety campaigns, despite recent research that has raised doubts about their effectiveness and the potential for triggering defensive responses. Building on the extended parallel process model, this study aims to add to this growing body of research by evaluating whether combining a hope message with guilt appeals can solve this problem.


An online experiment with a 2 (Appeal type: Guilt vs Guilt+hope) × 2 (Language intensity: Low vs High) between-subjects design was conducted. A total of 399 participants recruited from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk were randomized to view one of the four advertisements discouraging texting while driving (TWD). Their affective responses, perceptions about the advertisements and intentions to not TWD were measured.


The results showed that compared to guilt-only appeals, guilt+hope appeals directly reduced defensive responses (i.e. perceived manipulative intent and anger) across varying levels of language intensity. In addition, guilt+hope appeals mitigated the negative impacts of manipulative intent on intended emotions and intentions to not TWD.


Findings of this study mark the first to support the idea that communicating hope within guilt appeals is a promising social marketing strategy to discourage TWD.