Getting Emotional About Health
46 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2006
Date Written: September 1, 2006
The consequences of having an illness have two crucial types of stakes: for self and for family. Therefore, the current research examines the effectiveness of health messages that present consequences for the self or family, focusing specifically on the dual role played by emotions in serving these stakes: as a provider of resources and of information. The authors theorize that (a) the valence dimension of discrete emotions influences resources, thereby fostering or hindering the processing of aversive health information, whereas (b) the self/otherrelatedness dimension of discrete emotions provides information that interacts with the focal referent in the message (self or family) to determine compatibility. In experiments 1-3, the authors demonstrate that when individuals are primed with a positive emotion (e.g., happiness, peacefulness), the compatibility between the referent and the discrete emotion fosters the processing of health information. When the primed emotion is negative (e.g., sadness, anxiety), however, compatibility hinders processing of the message. In experiment 4, the authors track emotions pre- and post-exposure to a health message to demonstrate that the effect observed occurs due to an increase in the negative emotional state in compatible situations when processing disease-related information. The authors conclude by discussing the implications of the findings for increasing the effectiveness of health-related messages.
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