The effects of message quality and congruency on perceptions of tailored health communications

John A. Updegraff, David K. Sherman, Faith S. Luyster, Traci L. Mann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Recent research has documented the effectiveness of tailoring health behavior change messages to characteristics of the recipients, but little is known about the processes underlying these effects. Drawing from the elaboration likelihood model (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986), we examined the role of message scrutiny in moderating the congruency effect (Mann, Sherman, & Updegraff, 2004). One hundred and thirty-six undergraduate participants read either a strong or weak message promoting regular dental flossing with a frame (gain vs. loss) that either matched or mismatched their motivational orientation (approach vs. avoidance). Results showed that participants were sensitive to argument quality in the matched but not mismatched conditions. Further, argument quality moderated the effect of congruency on participants' attitudes and perceived norms regarding flossing, as well as their subsequent self-reported flossing behavior. Results suggest that increased message scrutiny underlies message tailoring effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-257
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2007


  • Health attitudes
  • Health behavior
  • Health promotion
  • Messages
  • Motivation
  • Persuasive communication


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