Message framing and sunscreen use: gain-framed messages motivate beach-goers

Health Psychol. 1999 Mar;18(2):189-96. doi: 10.1037//0278-6133.18.2.189.


Prospect theory suggests that people respond differentially to factually equivalent messages depending on how these messages are framed (A. Tversky & D. Kahneman, 1981). A. J. Rothman and P. Salovey (1997) relied on prospect theory to predict that messages highlighting potential "gains" should promote prevention behaviors such as sunscreen use best. This experiment compared the effectiveness of 4 differently framed messages (2 highlighting gains, 2 highlighting losses) to persuade 217 beach-goers to obtain and use sunscreen. Attitudes and intentions were measured before and immediately following the delivery of the framed information, and after completing the questionnaire participants were given a coupon redeemable for a small bottle of sunscreen later that same day. People who read either of the 2 gain-framed brochures, compared with those who read either of the 2 loss-framed brochures, were significantly more likely to (a) request sunscreen, (b) intend to repeatedly apply sunscreen while at the beach, and (c) intend to use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bathing Beaches*
  • Female
  • Health Education*
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / psychology
  • Pamphlets
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Skin Neoplasms / psychology
  • Sunlight / adverse effects
  • Sunscreening Agents / administration & dosage*


  • Sunscreening Agents