Message Design Choices Don't Make Much Difference to Persuasiveness and Can't Be Counted On—Not Even When Moderating Conditions Are Specified

Daniel J. O'Keefe*, Hans Hoeken

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Persuaders face many message design choices: narrative or non-narrative format, gain-framed or loss-framed appeals, one-sided or two-sided messages, and so on. But a review of 1,149 studies of 30 such message variations reveals that, although there are statistically significant differences in persuasiveness between message forms, it doesn't make much difference to persuasiveness which option is chosen (as evidenced by small mean effect sizes, that is, small differences in persuasiveness: median mean rs of about 0.10); moreover, choosing the on-average-more-effective option does not consistently confer a persuasive advantage (as evidenced by 95% prediction intervals that include both positive and negative values). Strikingly, these results obtain even when multiple moderating conditions are specified. Implications for persuasive message research and practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number664160
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume12
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 29 2021

Keywords

  • behavior change
  • message design
  • message variables
  • message variations
  • meta-analysis
  • persuasion
  • persuasive communication
  • prediction intervals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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