Interactive media reduce negative reactions to health messages and increase compliance

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People often react negatively to health messages because they tend to dictate what we can and cannot do, but new research reveals that interactive media can soften negative reactions (or reactance) to health messages that are distributed online.

In one study, researchers at Penn State and Stony Brook University found that website metrics that provide clues about the popularity of content (or bandwidth tracks) and tools that allow users to comment on content reduce the responsiveness to messages and increased the chances of people accepting the health tips offered in the message.

According to researchers, interactive the tools could open up new ways to help health communicators craft messages that can persuade people to avoid reactance.

“If you make a design the interface so that it shows the popularity of a health message among other viewers, which can reduce psychological reactance among your target audience, “said S. Shyam Sundar, James P. Jimirro’s Professor of Multimedia Effects at Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory. “When they tend to have a lower psychological reactance, that means they’re more likely to accept your message. This offers a very powerful way to achieve better communication and persuade people to adopt better health practices without altering the message at all. “

Reactivity is often felt when a person’s freedom is threatened, according to Ruobing Li, an assistant professor of communication and journalism at Stony Brook University, who is the study’s lead author.

“As human beings, we love freedom of action, we love to choose what to do and how to do it,” Li said. “But whenever freedom of action is limited or threatened by someone else, we enter a motivational state called psychological reactance. This state will motivate us to prevent this from happening, prevent our freedom from being threatened, and also motivate us to restore the lost freedom “.

Reactivity is shown in the form of anger and a tendency to argue against the message, Li said.

“When message recipients experience this reactance, they may generate a negative attitude toward and may have little intention of following health recommendations, so this, as health communicators, we definitely want to avoid, ”Li said.

According to researchers, who report their findings, the force of the threat posed by a message can often cause reactivity. Health communication, currently online. For example, in the study, researchers used the following as a high-threat message: “Three drinks is a safe limit you have to meet. Do it.” The low-threat message used more polite language, such as “Maybe three drinks are a safe limit you can live with. Why don’t you try to drink responsibly?”

As expected, the researchers found that the old message posed a greater threat to their freedom, but when the messages were accompanied by a large number of pleasures from other users, participants in the study ‘study did not find the high-threat message more threatening than the low-threat message.

The researchers also found that giving users a chance to comment gave them a strong sense of agency, which is the feeling people experience when they think they can make their own decisions. This, then, predicted his intention to follow the recommendations offered in the health message.

New tools for health communicators

Bandwagon directions and commenting tools are ubiquitous in online interactive media, added Sundar, who is also affiliated with the Penn State Institute of Computer and Data Science (ICDS).

“Increasingly, many interactive media offer us interface-ready tools that allow us to show our appreciation for content, like pressing the‘ like ’button,” Sundar said. “Meanwhile, under the hood, interactive media collects the number of people who react positively and displays this information in the form of metrics, such as the number of ‘likes’.

Most health communicators focus on creating messages to avoid reactivity, but designing interactive media offers them alternative ways to encourage persuasion and increase the chances of people adopting health behaviors, according to Li.

“Many scholars have been testing different approaches and studying different solutions to solve the reactance problem,” Li said. “One way to solve this problem, of course, is to reduce the threat level of the message, for example, to make the message less threatening, or alternatively, we can try to offer our recipients more options in the message. What we’re suggesting is that we can make better use of interactive media tools, not just messaging. “

The researchers recruited 261 participants for the study. Participants were randomly assigned to eight different versions (or conditions) of a website to test the level of enjoyment of comments, comments, and messages. The websites were designed to look identical.

The main content of each website serves as a public service announcement (PSA) about excessive consumption behaviors. In one condition, the video featured a very low message against excessive alcohol consumption to test the strong threat condition and a more polite message to test the low threat condition.

Each of the videos had directions on the cart. In good condition, 1,322 viewers liked the video and the “like” symbol was followed by a phrase indicating that 93% of viewers liked this video. In addition, the video received more than 140 comments and nine comments were shown. Due to poor traffic conditions, the video only received 20 likes (3% of all viewers) and one comment.

In addition, half of the participants were offered the option to comment on the video while the other half did not. After visiting the website, all participants were asked to complete an online questionnaire.

According to the researchers, future research should continue to investigate the connection between the characteristics of the comment and health intentions. They added that by further researching the tools used in and by better understanding the role of the agency they provide, researchers could better use these means for health promotion.


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More information:
Ruobing Li et al, Can interactive media attenuate psychological reactivity to health messages? A study of the role of user feedback and audience metrics in persuasion, Health communication (2021). DOI: 10.1080 / 10410236.2021.1888450

Citation: Interactive Media Reduces Negative Reactions to Health Messages, Increases Compliance (2021, July 14) Retrieved July 14, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-07-interactive-media-negative -reactions-health.html

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