Field experiments in social psychology: Message framing and the promotion of health protective behaviors
In this article, the authors present the case for field experimentationin social psychology primarily by describing a program of research concerned with psychological aspects of health communication and persuasion. In particular, the authors are most interested in when and for whom are messages emphasizing the benefits of a health behavior (these are called gain-framed messages) more persuasive and motivating than messages emphasizing the costs of not engagingin a behavior(these are called loss-framed messages), andvice-versa. This line of research is as theoretically driven as most laboratory investigations in social psychology, and it involves experimental approaches with random assignment, control groups, and the like. However, most of this work recruits participants in ecologically interesting contexts such as community clinics and housing developments. These especially vulnerable individuals are followed for sufficient periods of time to allow for the assessment of the influence of these health messages on relevant health behaviors such as obtaining a mammogram or acquiring condoms.