Investigating message-framing effects in the context of a tailored intervention promoting physical activity

Jonathan van 't Riet, Robert A C Ruiter, Marieke Q Werrij, Hein de Vries
Health Education Research 2010, 25 (2): 343-54
Health-promoting messages can be framed in terms of the gains associated with healthy behaviour or the losses associated with unhealthy behaviour. It has been argued that gain-framed messages promoting physical activity (PA) are more effective than loss-framed messages, but empirical findings are inconsistent. Also, no previous studies investigated the effects of gain- and loss-framed messages in the context of a computer-tailored PA intervention. In this study, we provided participants with computer-generated tailored feedback concerning their PA levels. In total, 787 participants entered in the study, of whom 299 completed all measures at a 3-month follow-up. We investigated whether gain- and loss-framed messages promoting PA affected information acceptance, attitude, intention and behaviour differently. The results showed that gain-framed messages resulted in stronger intentions to be physically active than loss-framed messages. This did not result in a significant increase in actual PA, however, as measured by a 3-month follow-up assessment. For information acceptance and attitude, a non-significant advantage of gain-framed messages was found. All effects had small effect sizes. Thus, whereas gain-framed information might be more persuasive than loss-framed information when it comes to promoting PA, the differences between gain- and loss-framed messages are likely to be small.

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