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Romance Scam Research Center

2020: UK: Examining the influence of emotional arousal and scam preventive messaging on susceptibility to scams

Lu, Hui Ying; Chan, Stephanie; Chai Whistine; Lau Shi Mian; Majeed, Khader.  Crime Prevention and Community Safety; London Vol. 22, Iss. 4, (Dec 2020): 313-330. DOI:10.1057/s41300-020-00098-3


Abstract: "With the increase in scams globally and the elusive methods of perpetrators, law enforcement agencies have turned to public education and awareness programs to decrease the number of scam victims. This has also raised a need to look into the psychology of scams and how they can be prevented. Emotional arousal has been shown to hinder cognitive decision-making processes in scam victims, subsequently influencing them to fall prey to scams. Despite this, messages used in scam prevention campaigns have been framed in ways that appeal to rational cognitive processes. This exploratory study examined two research questions: do (a) the type of messaging used in scam prevention posters (cognitive-focused poster vs. emotion-normalising poster) and (b) emotional arousal (positive arousal vs. negative arousal vs. no arousal) influence one’s susceptibility to scams? Susceptibility to scams was measured through participants’ intention to purchase items during a fake e-commerce scam scenario. Emotional arousal was measured with a combination of heart rate variability (HRV) data obtained through wearable heart rate trackers, and self-report scales. Results of the study showed that participants who viewed emotion-normalising posters demonstrated a lower susceptibility to scams compared to those who viewed the cognitive-focused poster. However, emotional arousal was not found to have any influence on one’s susceptibility to scams. These findings serve to inform crime prevention campaigns by law enforcement. Findings from this exploratory study can also encourage further research into the scam prevention research."

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