Mark C. Goetz

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The purpose of this study was to build upon Wakefield and colleagues and Vogeltanz-Holm and colleagues hypotheses that anti-smoking ads are effective by means of eliciting negative emotional states, particularly disgust. In this study, we compared two sets of ads: those high in fear and disgust and those high in only fear. We hypothesized that subjective and physiological responses to ads high in fear and have a disgust component would be greater than for the fear-only ads. We also predicted that the ads high in disgust would have higher rates of recall and engagement. Last, we predicted that participants viewing fear with disgust ads, relative to participants viewing fear-only ads, would have greater readiness to quit as well as decreased smoking behavior at follow-up. Participants were smoking college students aged 18 to 25 years (N=81). They viewed one of two sets of five randomly presented antismoking advertisements and filled out questionnaires assessing responses to each advertisement. Physiological responses (heart rate, skin conductance, and blood pressure) were also measured. Participants were then interviewed two weeks later to assess ad recall, saliency, and engagement. Results were mixed in that fear with disgust ads had higher ratings of disgust though not greater physiological reactivity than did the fear-only ads. Next, there were some unexpected interactions between participants' level of smoking and ad type on ratings of fear and disgust. Moderate smoking was associated with viewing the disgust with fear ads as less emotionally impactful than did low smokers. Contrary to the hypotheses, there were no differences between the conditions on measures of ad recall, engagement (i.e., thought about or discussed), readiness to quit, or quitting behavior at follow-up. Possible explanations for these results are discussed. This study provides an initial exploration into examining specific types of negative emotion and has implications for the use of different methodology in examining the effectiveness of specific antismoking media.