Abstract: Leveraging Listicles (List Articles) to Educate Young Adults about the Harms of E-cigarettes

◆ Allison J. Lazard, University of North Carolina
◆ Jennifer Cornacchione Ross, Wake Forest University
◆ Laurie Hursting, University of North Carolina
◆ Meredith K. Collins, University of North Carolina
◆ Erin L. Sutfin, Wake Forest University

Background. E-cigarette use has significantly increased among young adults. Increases in use are partially attributed to misperceptions about the harms of use. One novel approach to increase positive reception of e-cigarette education is to leverage the popular list-article format, or listicles, that abounds on the internet. Listicles are structured to increase information processing (cognitive elaboration) necessary to influence knowledge, beliefs, and behavior. Listicles condense complex information into easily processed, discrete facts, sometimes with a humorous tone. This format likely requires less conscious effort to understand, which may allow readers to more easily systematically process and internalize new information. We sought to determine whether listicles – with or without humor – influence e-cigarette education and willingness to use c-cigarettes.

Methods. A national convenience sample of 362 US young adults ages 19-35 (M=27.60, SD=3.73) completed an online experiment in July 2019. We randomized participants to one of four conditions: humorous listicles, non-humorous listicles, standard paragraph articles, or no-article control. Participants in article conditions rated two different articles about e-cigarette harms within their condition structure in a random order. Participants in the conditions with articles rated their cognitive elaboration (systematic and heuristic processing) and perceived credibility of each article. All participants then reported their e-cigarette beliefs, knowledge, and willingness to try e-cigarettes. We conducted analyses of variance (ANOVAs) with Bonferroni-adjusted post hoc analyses to examine the impact of article format on all outcomes.

Results. Compared to the no article control, non-humorous listicles led to greater knowledge, beliefs about e-cigarette harms, and lower willingness to use e-cigarettes, all p<.001, d=.56-.71. Humorous listicles also led to more knowledge, p=.026, d=.42, than the control. The standard paragraph articles led to greater beliefs, p=.046, d=.32, but not knowledge, when compared to the no article control. The article formats did not differ for knowledge, beliefs, or willingness to use e-cigarettes, but there were differences for message reception. Participants reported greater systematic processing and perceived credibility for the non-humorous listicle compared to the humorous listicles, p=.028, d=.36 and p=.015, d=.47, but neither listicle format differed from the standard paragraph articles. Heuristic processing was not different among the article formats (listicles vs. paragraph).

Conclusion. Providing novel e-cigarette information in curated “chunks” of information, or as listicles, has promise to increase intended message reception (processing and credibility), knowledge, beliefs, and lower ones’ willingness to use e-cigarettes. Humor should, however, be avoided, as it detracts from perceived credibility and readers’ willingness for effortful processing among young adults. Future studies could examine if humor is better received among adolescents. Our findings suggest an often-used Internet message strategy to put new information in lists is a promising tool for e-cigarette education to discourage use.