When is it OK to Joke? Adding humor to fear-based colonoscopy screening messages may increase compliance

Nick Carcioppolo, Aurora Occa, Elena V. Chudnovskaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Large scale campaigns frequently use humor to increase compliance with colonoscopy screening recommendations. Problematically, we know little about how humor functions to influence screening. This study seeks to understand whether and how messages framed using humor appeals function differently from those using fear appeals to increase colonoscopy intentions. An online experiment (N = 186) was conducted comparing colonoscopy screening messages framed with a fear appeal and mixed humor/fear appeal. The addition of humor was more effective among those with high frequency of cancer worry, whereas the fear appeal resulted in significantly higher response efficacy, which was in turn associated with increased colonoscopy intentions. These results begin to describe situations in which intervention messages framed with a mixed humor/fear appeal may be more or less effective than interventions framed with fear appeals alone. Practical and theoretical implications for persuasive message design are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-602
Number of pages22
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 De Gruyter Mouton. All rights reserved.


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Emotional appeals
  • Eppm
  • Fear
  • Humor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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