Getting emotional: An emotion-cognition dual-factor model of crisis communication

Yuanhang Lu, Yi-Hui Christine Huang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


The effect of emotional experience on cognitive processes is an under-explored phenomenon in crisis communication research, despite indications of the increasing importance of emotion-based communication in the digital era. Emerging evidence indicates that the emotional experiences of publics play a critical role during organizational crises and determine the degree to which organizations are able to successfully devise communications that help them deal with such crises. Yet no comprehensive, theoretically sound model exists for analyzing how emotions influence the cognitive processing of crisis information. Our study proposes just such a model, capable of describing how cognition and emotion, separately or interactively, influence the publics’ processing of crisis information and consequently their attitudes and behaviors. Our model describes how emotional variables determine whether the publics take a cognition-oriented approach or an emotion-oriented approach to information processing and subsequent formation of interpretations, evaluations, and judgments directed toward organizations. Moreover, our model explains how an emotion-to-cognition assessment of publics’ attitudes is possible and makes a case for how it is critical for predicting and influencing the publics’ behavior during organizational crises. The hope is that this model will aid practitioners and academics in understanding why the publics’ emotions matter during crisis communication as well as how to craft more effective communication strategies as a result. Finally, several avenues for future research are suggested in order to test the validity of our conceptual model in different contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-107
Number of pages10
JournalPublic Relations Review
Issue number1
Early online date8 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018

User-Defined Keywords

  • Emotion
  • Cognition
  • Crisis communication
  • Crisis responsibility
  • Information processing
  • Framing
  • Dual-factor model


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