Brain Activity in Self- and Value-Related Regions in Response to Online Antismoking Messages Predicts Behavior Change

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In this study, we combined approaches from media psychology and neuroscience to ask whether brain activity in response to online antismoking messages can predict smoking behavior change. In particular, we examined activity in subregions of the medial prefrontal cortex linked to self- and value-related processing, to test whether these neurocognitive processes play a role in message-consistent behavior change. We observed significant relationships between activity in both brain regions of interest and behavior change (such that higher activity predicted a larger reduction in smoking). Furthermore, activity in these brain regions predicted variance independent of traditional, theory-driven self-report metrics such as intention, self-efficacy, and risk perceptions. We propose that valuation is an additional cognitive process that should be investigated further as we search for a mechanistic explanation of the relationship between brain activity and media effects relevant to health behavior change.

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