Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Warkentin, Merrill

Committee Member

Vance, Anthony

Committee Member

Marett, Kent

Committee Member

Otondo, Robert F.

Committee Member

Collier, Joel

Date of Degree


Original embargo terms

Visible to MSU only for 2 years

Document Type

Dissertation - Campus Access Only


Management Information Systems

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Business


Department of Management and Information Systems


The purpose of this study is to explore how to make persuasive messages effective to sufficiently motivate individuals to form good security practice through two aspects - affect valence-based message and message framing effect. The two emotional appeals examined in this study include traditional fear appeals and humor appeals. Fear appeals, arousing people's fear to persuade them to take precautionary actions, are predominant in the literature of information security. By contrast, humorous messages have been found to induce positive affect, reduce negativity, and enhance message acceptance. In addition, messages can be illustrated in a broader context or can be presented with particular examples tailored to individuals' decision-making. The effects of these two ways - thematic and episodic frames - are also investigated in the fear and humor appeals. A multi-group experimental design is adopted to examine the hypotheses. 577 valid responses were collected from college students at Mississippi State University via a professional platform. Followed by a number of rigorous analysis, the results indicate that a humor appeal is more effective when framed in a thematic frame. Furthermore, issue relevance and gender difference are salient factors that can influence the interaction between affect valence and message frame. Additionally, both abstract and concrete fear appeals demonstrated a stronger impact than concrete humor appeals on individuals' intent to follow the positive security practice. However, there is no evidence that concrete fear appeals are more superior to abstract ones. It's not found that humor appeals are more effective than traditional fear appeals when promoting cybersecurity threats.