Health message framing effects on attitudes, intentions, and behavior: a meta-analytic review

Kristel M Gallagher, John A Updegraff
Annals of Behavioral Medicine: a Publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine 2012, 43 (1): 101-16

BACKGROUND: Message framing has been an important focus in health communication research, yet prior meta-analyses found limited support for using framing to increase persuasiveness of health messages.

PURPOSE: This meta-analysis distinguished the outcomes used to assess the persuasive impact of framed messages (attitudes, intentions, or behavior).

METHODS: One hundred eighty-nine effect sizes were identified from 94 peer-reviewed, published studies which compared the persuasive impact of gain- and loss-framed messages.

RESULTS: Gain-framed messages were more likely than loss-framed messages to encourage prevention behaviors (r = 0.083, p = 0.002), particularly for skin cancer prevention, smoking cessation, and physical activity. No effect of framing was found when persuasion was assessed by attitudes/intentions or among studies encouraging detection.

CONCLUSIONS: Gain-framed messages appear to be more effective than loss-framed messages in promoting prevention behaviors. Research should examine the contexts in which loss-framed messages are most effective, and the processes that mediate the effects of framing on behavior.

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