When Do Gain-Framed Health Messages Work Better Than Fear Appeals

Wansink, Brian and Lizzy Pope (2014), “When Do Gain Framed Health Messages Work Better Than Fear Appeals? Nutrition Reviews, 73:4-11.

25 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2014 Last revised: 29 Apr 2017

See all articles by Brian Wansink

Brian Wansink

Retired

Lizzy Pope

Cornell University - Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

Date Written: July 25, 2014

Abstract

When does a gain-framed health message work better than a loss-based one, such as a fear appeal? Although a basic summary of the literature would be inconsistent and inconclusive, a deeper focus on the individual or person-specific characteristics of the audience targeted in the studies shows a much clearer pattern. Specifically, by answering four questions about a target audience, this review contends that one can predict whether a gain-framed health message will be more effective than a loss-framed message. The four factors include whether the target audience has a 1) low (vs. high) level of involvement in the issue, 2) high (vs. low) certainty of the outcome, 3) low (vs. high) preference for risk, and 4) heuristic (vs. piece-meal) processing style. Profiling audiences on these dimensions has two distinct benefits. First, this framework explains much of seeming inconsistent in past positive-negative and gain-loss message research (for example, fear appeals work with experts better than non-experts). Second, this framework helps predict which type of message will be most effective with a given audience target.

Keywords: health messaging, audience-centered, framing, behavior, public policy, positive negative framed messages, gain loss framed messages

Suggested Citation

Wansink, Brian and Pope, Elizabeth, When Do Gain-Framed Health Messages Work Better Than Fear Appeals (July 25, 2014). Wansink, Brian and Lizzy Pope (2014), “When Do Gain Framed Health Messages Work Better Than Fear Appeals? Nutrition Reviews, 73:4-11., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2497108

Brian Wansink (Contact Author)

Retired ( email )

607-319-0123 (Phone)

Elizabeth Pope

Cornell University - Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management ( email )

Ithaca, NY
United States

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