Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Warkentin, Merrill

Committee Member

Arnett, Kirk

Committee Member

Lueg, Nicole Ponder

Committee Member

Taylor, Steven

Committee Member

Barnett, Tim

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Business Information Systems

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Business and Industry


Department of Management and Information Systems


Through persuasive communication, IT executives strive to align the actions of end users with the desired security posture of management and of the firm. In many cases, the element of fear is incorporated within these communications. However, within the context of computer security and information assurance, it is not yet clear how these fear-inducing arguments, known as fear appeals, will ultimately impact the actions of end users. The purpose of this study is to examine the influence of fear appeals on the compliance of end users with recommendations to enact specific individual computer security actions toward the amelioration of threats. A two-phase examination was adopted that involved two distinct data collection and analysis procedures, and culminated in the development and testing of a conceptual model representing an infusion of theories based on prior research in Social Psychology and Information Systems (IS), namely the Extended Parallel Process Model (EPPM) and the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT). Results of the study suggest that fear appeals do impact end users attitudes and behavioral intentions to comply with recommended individual acts of security, and that the impact is not uniform across all end users, but is determined in part by perceptions of self-efficacy, response efficacy, threat severity, threat susceptibility, and social influence. The findings suggest that self-efficacy and, to a lesser extent, response efficacy predict attitudes and behavioral intentions to engage individual computer security actions, and that these relationships are governed by perceptions of threat severity and threat susceptibility. The findings of this research will contribute to IS expectancy research, human-computer interaction, and organizational communication by revealing a new paradigm in which IT users form perceptions of the technology, not on the basis of performance gains, but on the basis of utility for threat amelioration.