Fear, Anger, Fruits, and Veggies: Interactive Effects of Emotion and Message Framing on Health Behavior

Mary A. Gerend*, Jon K. Maner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Message framing is a theoretically grounded health communication strategy designed to motivate action by emphasizing either the benefits of engaging in a particular behavior (gains) or the costs of failing to engage in the behavior (losses). This study investigated whether the effectiveness of a framed message depends on the emotional state of the message recipient. We examined effects of fear versus anger, emotions that frequently occur within the context of health decision-making. Methods: Undergraduate students (N = 133) were randomly assigned to complete a fear or anger induction task after which they read a gain- or loss-framed pamphlet promoting fruit and vegetable consumption. Fruit and vegetable intake (servings per day) subsequently was assessed over the following 2 weeks. Results: As predicted, a significant frame by emotion interaction was observed, such that participants in the fear condition reported eating more servings of fruits and vegetables after exposure to a loss-framed message than to a gain-framed message. In contrast, participants in the anger condition reported eating (marginally) more servings of fruits and vegetables after exposure to a gain-framed message than to a loss-framed message. Greater increases in fruit and vegetable intake from baseline to follow-up were observed when the message frame was matched to the participant's emotional state. Conclusion: The effectiveness of framed health communications depends on the message recipient's current emotional state. Affective factors that are incidental to the behavior recommended in a health communication can affect the relative success of gain- and loss-framed appeals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)420-423
Number of pages4
JournalHealth Psychology
Volume30
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2011

Keywords

  • Dietary behavior
  • Emotion
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Health communication
  • Message framing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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