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Arendt, Florian, Braeunlein, Julia, Koleva, Viktoria, Mergen, Marina, Schmid, Stephanie and Tratner, Lisa (2018): Effects of Gain- and Loss-Framed Quit Messages on Smokers: Test of the Ability to Process the Health Message as a Moderator. In: Journal of Health Communication, Vol. 23, No. 8: pp. 800-806

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Health messages can emphasize the benefits of engaging in healthy behavior (gain-framed) or the costs of failing to engage in it (loss-framed). Previous research revealed that gain-framed messages tend to be more effective in motivating smokers to quit. As a supplement to previous studies, we questioned whether the ability to process health messages moderates the size of the gain-frame advantage. There were two competing theoretical ideas. First, some scholars have noted that a high ability to process a health message is a necessary precondition to observe the advantage of gain-framing. Second, risk aversiona central concept used in previous theorizing to explain the gain-frame advantageis associated with automatic processing and automatic processing has a stronger influence on decision making under a low ability to process. We utilized a 2 (exposure to gain- or loss-framed quit messages) x 2 (low or high ability to process) randomized controlled trial with a pre-post exposure change in quit intentions as the target outcome (N=182 smokers). Although the analysis revealed the hypothesized gain-frame advantage, the ability to process did not moderate the effect. We discuss the theoretical implications.

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