Does the Screening Status of Message Characters Affect Message Effects?

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Abstract

Public health messages can be used to increase awareness about colorectal cancer screenings. Free or inexpensive images for creating health messages are readily available, yet little is known about how a pictured individual’s engagement in the behavior of interest affects message outcomes. Participants (N = 360), aged 50 to 75 years, completed an online survey in which they viewed a colorectal cancer screening message and were then randomly assigned to view one of four different messages about the pictured individual’s screening status. Analyses revealed no significant differences in message credibility, message effectiveness, or screening intention among the four conditions. The pictured individual’s level of knowledge was rated significantly lower among those participants who were told the screening status of the pictured individual was unknown, compared with those who received no screening status information, U = 3574.50, p = .005. Future studies could build on the design of this study to examine the effects of using free or purchased images on intent to screen and other message outcomes over time.

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