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The Catalyst of Emotion and Health Choices

Updated: May 6, 2023


Message framing is a strategy in which information is presented to gear emotions toward healthy habits (gains) and avoid unhealthy ones (losses), (Gerend, Maner, 2011). Within the article, “Fear, anger, fruits, and veggies: Interactive effects of emotion and message framing on health behavior,” researchers conducted a test to see the impact of prior emotions on these messages of participants, and their effect (Gerend, Maner, 2011). Fear and anger -separate or together- are emotions that reportedly are consistent within the health decision-making sector (Gerend, Maner, 2011). This is suspected due to diagnoses of terminal illnesses, hypochondria, fear of certain diseases due to witness of loved ones, etc.


Randomly selected undergraduate students for two weeks completed a fear or anger induction task followed by a gain/loss pamphlet regarding nutrition consumption (Gerend, Maner, 2011). Before the experiment, the students would answer a questionnaire explaining their normal fruit and vegetable intake, as well as their anger/fear tendencies, to effectively determine the changes within the experiment. Then, each participant would write an essay describing a personal fear or anger with vibrant detail. Following, each student would read one of two message-framed pamphlets, one geared towards the fearful students (loss) and one towards the angry students (gain) (Gerend, Maner, 2011).


The predicted outcome matched the results (Gerend, Maner, 2011). Participants with the fear condition ate more servings of fruits and vegetables after a loss-framed message (high perceived risk) (Gerend, Maner, 2011). Oppositely, those participants with an anger condition showed an increase in fruits and vegetables after a gain-framed message (high perceived security). This matching of emotion to message framing had students reportedly increase their servings by almost one full serving per day from baseline to follow-up within 2 weeks (Gerend, Maner, 2011).


Other research has examined more broad emotions such as negative and positive, as opposed to specific emotions (Gerend, Maner, 2011). This article emphasizes that more specific emotions are to be considered when going forward as they show different results. Otherwise known as, appraisal theories of emotion, “ specific emotional states are each associated with their own pattern of cognitive appraisal” (Gerend, Maner, 2011). A marketing strategy called neuromarketing takes neuroscience research to improve sales and prompt appetite, from the images in the advertisements to the smell of the restaurants (Harrell, E. 2021). Within the tone of Gerend and Maner, catalyst emotions for these marketing strategies might be as simple as confidence, bliss, and happiness. These emotions are far more appealing than the anger and fear mentioned above. However, following these advertisements by indulging in unhealthy food, could lead to health problems that lead to fear and anger emotions regarding well-being. It begs the question, how can promotions of well-being improve by understanding the emotions to attract more preventative well-being participants?


Message framing is showing its significance for behavior, but more research shows that it is not without matching these prior emotions of the viewer. More research is needed to examine other emotions (jealousy, disgust, etc.) and positive emotions (optimism, affection, bliss, etc.) And, is it noted that conducting research to place these emotions in isolation helps to better understand the workings of cause and effect (Gerend, Maner, 2011).


Citation

Gerend, M. A., & Maner, J. K. (2011). Fear, anger, fruits, and veggies: Interactive effects of emotion and message framing on health behavior. Health Psychology, 30(4), 420-423. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0021981

Harrell, E. (2021, August 30). Neuromarketing: What you need to know. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2019/01/neuromarketing-what-you-need-to-know



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