Abstract: The Impact of Mixed-valence Frames on Sun Protection - New Insights into Gain-loss Framing Considering Emotional Flow and Arousal

◆ Laura Koch, University of Erfurt
◆ Alexander Ort, University of Fribourg
◆ Anne Reinhardt, University of Erfurt
◆ Winja Weber, University of Erfurt
◆ Constanze Rossmann, University of Erfurt
◆ Andreas Fahr, University of Fribourg

Extant research has examined the impact of gain–loss framing on people’s health attitudes and intentions (Gallagher & Updegraff, 2011). However, studies often fail to show a clear direct effect of framing on health-related outcomes (Gallagher & Updegraff, 2011; O'Keefe & Jensen, 2009). Moreover, little is known about the effects of gain-loss framing in media content (auditive or audiovisual)—particularly for longer narratives that combine both gain and loss frames. Investigating longer narratives could shed light on the interaction of affective reactions, i.e., valence shifts, with gain-loss frames (Nabi et al., 2019). Those emotional shifts are in particular important, because research in other contexts of persuasive health communication (e.g., fear and humorous appeals) indicate that elicitation of different emotional reactions could be more effective than just triggering one emotion (Authors, 2018, 2019). Specifically, the concept of “emotional flow” suggests that emotional shifts enhance the depth of information processing, thereby increasing persuasive impacts (Nabi, 2015). Consequently, this study investigates the potential benefits of confronting people with mixed- (gain-loss or vice versa) instead of single-valence (pure gain or loss) frames. In particular, it is assumed that mixed-valence frames will lead to higher cognitive arousal and emotional experiences, which eventually mediate and promote adaptive outcomes (e.g., intention and behavior).
To investigate the proposed mediation an experimental study was conducted. Participants (N=181, Mage=21.94; SDage=2.33, 81.8% female) were confronted with one of four versions of a radio-podcast about sun protection and UV-related illnesses. Each version contained information about skin and eye related sun protective behavior, that were manipulated with respect to their emotional dimensionality, i.e., were either gain or loss framed. After listening to the podcast, participants reported their level of arousal (SAM; Bradley & Lang, 1994) and emotional experience (M-DAS; Renaud & Unz, 2006) during exposure as well as their behavioral intentions (Ajzen, 1985). In a follow-up questionnaire two weeks after the experiment participants’ actual sun protection behavior during the past two weeks were assessed. The proposed relationships were analyzed by means of mediation analysis (Hayes, 2018; Model 4 with multiple mediators, i.e., arousal, positive and negative emotional experience).
Results reveal no promotional effects of mixed-valence frames during exposure on health-related outcomes through arousal and emotional experiences. However, further analyses indicate a significant influence of stimulus ending on the behavioral intentions (R2=.12, p<.001). First, spots ending with a gain frame were related to more positive emotional experiences (β=.25, p=.061) which in turn increased adaptive intentions to engage in sun protective actions (β=.20, p=.003). At the same time, they decreased arousal more strongly (β=–.35, p=.003), thereby decreasing behavioral intentions (β=.21, p=.006). These findings may be explained by the recency effect of emotions, indicating that in order to create more effective health appeals it might be better to conclude a message with a frame that is able to induce a certain level of arousal—within this study a loss frame. Additional results concerning message processing (e.g., the role of reactance) and different outcomes (e.g., attitude, behavior) will be presented and discussed at the conference.