Uncovering the Mechanisms of Message Framing for Promoting Physical Activity: An Aging Perspective

Project: Research

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For health-promoting behaviors such as physical activity (PA), gain-framed messages (i.e., benefits of engaging in PA) are suggested to be more effective than loss-framed messages (i.e., costs of non-participation). According to some age-related mechanisms (i.e., increases in heuristic/affective processing, preference toward positive affect, and personal importance of PA), the gain-frame advantage for PA may be more pronounced for older versus younger adults. The regulatory fit theory, however, predicts the opposite. Messages are more effective when individuals’ regulatory focus orientations match with the frames, i.e., promotion-to-gain and prevention-to-loss. Older adults are more prevention-oriented about health, which may lead to a more favorable evaluation toward loss frames. This study aims to uncover the contributions of these age-related mechanisms.Besides overall-valence framing (i.e., gain-loss), messages can be framed by end-state valence (i.e., positive-negative). For instance, gain-framed messages can be framed as the presence of positive outcomes (e.g., enhance heart health) or the absence of negative outcomes (e.g., avoid heart disease). Messages are more effective when individuals’ regulatory focus orientations match with the end-states (i.e., promotion-to-positive and prevention-to-negative). Commonly seen PA messages, however, often include both end-states, which may confound with the overall-valence framing effect. This methodological issue needs to be addressed for meaningful examinations of age moderations.Study 1 compares the effectiveness of four single-framed conditions varied by overall valence and end-state valence, together with a mix-framed condition, which shows the most commonly seen PA outcomes in their corresponding ideal frames (i.e., gain-to-positive and loss-to-negative). In addition, age moderation will be explored. Participants will be 150 younger (aged 18-35) and 150 older (aged ? 60) sedentary adults. They will be randomly assigned to five possible message conditions. Effectiveness will be measured by information acceptance, PA attitudes, and PA intentions immediately after message reading, as well as PA behavior at a two-week follow-up.Study 2 examines the age-related moderators (i.e., age, affective processing, positivity, regulatory focus orientation, and PA importance) of the overall-valence framing effect. To control for end-state framing effects, only positive end-states will be used. A gain-frame advantage is expected to be stronger for older than for younger adults. Study 2 also examines whether age moderation can be explained by other moderators. Participants will be 160 younger and 160 older sedentary adults. They will be randomly assigned to read either the gain- or loss-framed messages. Effectiveness will be measured objectively by monitoring the participants’ PA behaviors for two weeks using accelerometers.


Project number9042114
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/09/144/02/19

    Research areas

  • framing,aging,physical activity,regulatory fit theory,