Anti-Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Messages Elicit Reactance: Effects on Attitudes and Policy Preferences

James Price Dillard, Jinyoung Kim, Shu Scott Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Messages that convey the dangers associated with consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) may be the most effective means of changing attitudes toward consumption and policy preferences. However, there is a risk that this message type also stimulates reactance, a form of resistance to persuasion. A study (N = 618) using messages from the 2012 New York City anti-SSB campaign and a sample of New York City residents showed just such effects. Reactance was heightened by prior message exposure, conservative political orientation and prior consumption of SSBs. The net message effect was still persuasive overall for attitudes, but could be improved by 17% if reactance were eliminated. In contrast, the net message effect on policy preferences was counterpersuasive, due to processes other than reactance. Anti-SSB threat appeals can change attitudes toward one’s own behavior in a more healthful direction, while simultaneously eroding support for more restrictive SSB policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)703-711
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Health Communication
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 3 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Library and Information Sciences


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