Effects of Framing Health Messages in Terms of Benefits to Loved Ones or Others: An Experimental Study
Many health officials believe the future of public health is in prevention of infectious diseases like pandemic influenza. Vaccine promotion is becoming an increasingly important area for health communication researchers. One strategy health promoters can consider is to emphasize that getting vaccinated protects not only the self, but also loved ones, and unknown others to whom the disease could be spread. The set of experiments described here tested whether such a strategy (called "benefit-target framing") could prove useful in promoting vaccine intentions. In two experiments, subjects from an online panel were randomized to receive a vaccination message focused on the benefits either to the self, to loved ones, or to society as a whole. Outcome measures included intentions to receive the vaccine and intentions to seek more information (n = 495). Results from two virtually identical studies were pooled to maximize power. Results suggest that messages framed in terms of benefits to society were more successful than those focused on the self, but messages focused on loved ones were not different from either of the others. Possible explanations for the findings, and implications for future research, are discussed.