Persuading people to drink less alcohol : the role of message framing, temporal focus and autonomy

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Churchill, Susan ; Pavey, Louisa ; Jessop, Donna ; Sparks, Paul (2016)

AIMS:\ud Health information can be used to try to persuade people to follow safe drinking recommendations. However, both the framing of information and the dispositional characteristics of message recipients need to be considered. An online study was conducted to examine how level of autonomy moderated the effect on drinking behaviour of gain- and loss-framed messages about the short- vs. long-term consequences of alcohol use.\ud \ud METHODS:\ud At Time 1, participants (N = 335) provided demographic information and completed a measure of autonomy. At Time 2, participants reported baseline alcohol use and read a gain-framed or loss-framed health message that highlighted either short- or long-term outcomes of alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption was reported 7 days later.\ud \ud RESULTS:\ud The results showed a significant three-way interaction between message framing (loss vs. gain), temporal focus (short-term vs. long-term) and autonomy. For low-autonomy (but not high-autonomy) individuals, the loss-framed health message was associated with lower levels of alcohol consumption than was the gain-framed message but only if the short-term outcomes were conveyed.\ud \ud CONCLUSION:\ud This research provides evidence that the interaction between message framing and temporal focus may depend on a person's level of autonomy, which has implications for health promotion and the construction of effective health communication messages.\ud \ud SHORT SUMMARY:\ud We examined how autonomy moderated the effect on drinking behaviour of gain- and loss-framed messages about the short- vs. long-term consequences of alcohol use. For low-autonomy individuals, the loss-framed health message was associated with lower alcohol consumption than was the gain-framed message but only if the short-term outcomes were conveyed.
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