Message frames interact with motivational systems to determine depth of message processing

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33 Scopus citations


Although several theoretical perspectives predict that negatively framed messages will be processed more deeply than positively framed messages, a recent meta-analysis found no such difference. In this article, the authors explore 2 explanations for this inconsistency. One possibility is methodological: the statistics used in the primary studies underestimated framing effects on depth of message processing because the data were maldistributed. The other is theoretical: the absence of a main effect is veridical, but framing interacts with individual differences that predispose individuals to greater or lesser depth of processing. Data from 2 experiments (Ns = 286 and 252) were analyzed via tobit regression, a technique designed to overcome the limitations of maldistributed data. One study showed the predicted main effect for framing, but the other did not. Both studies showed the anticipated interaction: Depth of processing correlated positively with a measure of the behavioral activation system in the advantage framing condition, whereas depth of processing correlated positively with the behavioral inhibition system in the disadvantage framing condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)504-514
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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