Message framing and color priming: How subtle threat cues affect persuasion

Mary A. Gerend*, Tricia Sias

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Message framing involves the presentation of equivalent decision outcomes in terms of either gains or losses. Loss-framed messages tend to be more persuasive than gain-framed messages when the decision is perceived to involve uncertainty or threat. The current study examined whether the effectiveness of loss-framed information would be enhanced by the presence of a peripheral threat cue - the color red - which was expected to prime threat via its association with blood and danger. In addition to being primed with the color red or gray (control), male participants (n = 126) read either a gain- or loss-framed pamphlet promoting human papillomavirus vaccination. As predicted, vaccination intentions were higher among participants exposed to a loss-framed message than to a gain-framed message, but only when primed with red (not gray). Findings shed light on the interactive effects of message framing and color priming, and demonstrate that peripheral threat cues may affect processing of persuasive health messages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)999-1002
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2009


  • Color priming
  • Health
  • Message framing
  • Threat
  • Vaccination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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