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
Date Written: July 25, 2014
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
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