Gain-framed messages to persuade quitting smoking

Above are the two examples of many quitting smoking promotion messages; one is a loss-framed and the other is a gain-framed message. We can find both message types in print, electronic, and social media world. And, health professionals too, knowingly or unknowingly, use both types in their daily encounters with patients and clients. Really, do both types similarly succeed persuading them to quit smoking?

This is a really important question due to many reasons; of course, project implementors want to know whether their mass media interventions are effective; health practitioners need to know whether their precious time is worthwhile spending time to discuss quititng; and finally, all of them are spending millions of taxpayers’ hard-earned money.

Due to these reasons, researchers have been attempting to find out which type is more effective in persuading smokers to quit their habit.  In fact, this problem is not so simple; there should definitely be a myriad of sub-groups among us.

However, recently, Gallagher and Updegraff (2012) reviewed published research on this subject using the meta-analytical method. They found that gain-framed messages were more persuasive than loss-framed ones in promoting quitting smoking. Although they have reviewed other behaviours too, I am presenting here only the findings relevant to quitting smoking.   

The association between the persuasiveness of gain-framed messages and quitting behaviour of the smoking seems to be very strong when the outcome measures were behavioural rather than attitudinal or intentional. They attribute this differential finding to the probable lower accuracy of measurements of attitudes and intentions. In other words, we need to use behavioural measurements in evaluating persuasiveness of messages rather than the measures of attitudes or intentions.    

This review convincingly adds credence to the Prospect theory according to which people will comply with a behaviour when its perceived outcome is surely beneficial. You can read more about this theory by clicking this link

References: Gallagher, K. M., & Updegraff, J. A. (2012). Health message framing effects on attitudes, intentions, and behavior: A meta-analytic review.Annals of Behavioral Medicine,43 (1), 101–116. Retrieved from:https://academic.oup.com/abm/article-abstract/43/1/101/4563944?redirectedFrom=fulltext

Author: Prasantha De Silva

A specialist in Community Medicine board-certified in Sri Lanka and a research analyst in Canada

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