Fear and loving in las vegas: Evolution, emotion, and persuasion

Vladas Griskevicius, Noah J. Goldstein, Chad R. Mortensen, Jill M. Sundie, Robert B. Cialdini, Douglas T. Kenrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

195 Scopus citations


How do arousal-inducing contexts, such as frightening or romantic television programs, influence the effectiveness of basic persuasion heuristics? Three theoretical models make different predictions: (1) A general arousal model predicts that arousal should increase the effectiveness of heuristics, (2) an affective valence model predicts that effectiveness should depend on whether the context elicits positive or negative affect, and (3) an evolutionary model predicts that persuasiveness should depend on both the specific emotion elicited and the content of the particular heuristic. Three experiments examine how fear-inducing versus romantic contexts influence the effectiveness of two widely used heuristics-social proof (e.g., "most popular") and scarcity (e.g., "limited edition"). The results support the predictions from an evolutionary model, showing that fear can lead scarcity appeals to be counterpersuasive and that romantic desire can lead social proof appeals to be counterpersuasive. The findings highlight how an evolutionary theoretical approach can lead to novel theoretical and practical marketing insiahts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)384-395
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Marketing Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Advertising
  • Emotion
  • Evolutionary models
  • Motivation
  • Persuasion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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