The influence of message framing on intentions to perform health behaviors

Alexander J. Rothman, Peter Salovey, Carol Antone, Kelli Keough, Chloé Drake Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

416 Scopus citations


Prospect Theory proposes that people prefer taking risks to options that are certain when considering losses and prefer certainty to risk when considering gains (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979). As a result, individuals are expected to be persuaded to take risks when exposed to negatively framed messages. For instance, Meyerowitz and Chaiken (1987) demonstrated that exposure to negatively framed information promotes breast self-examination. However, the influence of message framing on other health behaviors has been inconsistent. Two studies examined the moderating effect of involvement with the health issue and type of target behavior on the influence of message framing on intentions to perform health behaviors relevant to preventing or detecting skin cancer. In our samples, women as compared to men were more concerned about sun tanning and skin cancer and therefore were considered to be more involved with this health issue. In Experiment 1, exposure to negatively framed versus positively framed messages differentially influenced the intentions of female (high involvement) and male (low involvement) subjects to obtain a skin cancer detection examination. In Experiment 2, women who read positively framed pamphlets were more likely than those who read negatively framed pamphlets to request sunscreen with an appropriate sun protection factor (a prevention behavior).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)408-433
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1993


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