This meta-analysis of studies of the persuasive impact of fear appeals evaluated the contribution of our stage model of the processing of fear-arousing communications relative to other fear appeal theories. In contrast to other theories, our stage model (a) specifies the cognitive processes underlying persuasion through fear-arousing communications, (b) proposes that threat-induced defensive processing does not interfere with the effectiveness of fear-arousing communications but actually contributes to it, and (c) predicts that vulnerability and severity manipulations have differential effects on measures of attitude as compared with intention and behavior. To evaluate these predictions, the authors expanded on previous meta-analyses by assessing the independent as well as joint effects of vulnerability to and severity of a risk, both on information processing and on measures of persuasion (attitude, intention, behavior). Overall, findings were consistent with the stage model. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.