Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 43, Issue 5, pp 814–823 | Cite as

The effects of priming subjective control on reports of fear

  • Martina KaufmannEmail author
  • Roland Neumann
Original Paper


According to appraisal theories, fear-related emotions are essentially influenced by appraisals of personal control. Most appraisal theories propose that control appraisals automatically influence individuals’ fear responses, outside of their subjective awareness of that influence (Moors et al. Emot Rev 5:119–124, 2013). Providing empirical evidence for this idea, the current research showed that an unobtrusive manipulation of participants’ control appraisals via priming influenced their reports of fear-related emotions towards a subsequently presented threatening stimulus. In three studies, participants who were primed with a low degree of control in an ostensibly unrelated task reported more intense fear and anxiety toward the same stimulus compared with those who were primed with a high degree of control. This result generalized across different priming manipulations of subjective control and different threatening stimuli.


Emotion Fear Anxiety Cognitive appraisals Subjective control 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures involving human participants were carried out in accordance with the Institution’s and/or National Research Committee’s ethical standards, and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and subsequent amendments, or with comparable ethical standards.

Research involving human and animal rights

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department I—PsychologyUniversity of TrierTrierGermany

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