Examining the Efficacy of STD Testing Public Health Messages Tailored to Youth’s Regulatory Focus

Reina Evans-Paulson, Laura Widman, Hannah Javidi, Nikolette Lipsey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Only 25% of sexually active youth have ever been tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). One potential strategy to increase testing is to target youth with health messages tailored to their regulatory focus. People have a dominant regulatory focus and tend to be either more concerned with the risks of unhealthy choices (prevention-focused) or the benefits of healthy choices (promotion-focused). Theoretically, when someone is targeted with a message that matches their regulatory focus, the message will be more effective. Among 380 sexually active youth, we examined whether matching STD testing messages to youth’s regulatory focus strengthens the efficacy of the message for improving STD testing stigma, self-efficacy, and intentions. We evaluated participants’ regulatory focus and then assigned them to watch either a prevention-focused or promotion-focused video encouraging STD testing. Among prevention-focused youth, those who watched the prevention-focused video had more stigmatizing attitudes toward STD testing than those who watched the promotion-focused video. Post hoc analyses confirmed the robustness of these findings for our stigma outcome and revealed a similar pattern for self-efficacy: youth who were more prevention-focused and received the prevention-focused video had lower STD testing self-efficacy. Our results for testing intentions were not significant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)835-848
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 7 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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