Matching health messages to information-processing styles: need for cognition and mammography utilization

Health Commun. 2003;15(4):375-92. doi: 10.1207/S15327027HC1504_01.


The use of tailored health communications has become a favored technique for persuading individuals to engage in health behaviors, such as screening mammography. This experiment examined the impact of tailoring persuasive health communications to one aspect of individuals' information-processing styles, that of the need for cognition (NFC), the enjoyment of thinking deeply about issues. To determine whether messages matched to an individual's NFC are more influential than mismatched messages, 602 women who called the Cancer Information Service (CIS) of the National Cancer Institute were asked to participate in an experiment at the end of their service call. They were assigned randomly to receive 1 of 2 phone messages promoting mammography use and a similarly tailored pamphlet 1 month later. Messages matched to an individual's NFC were better at motivating mammography 6 months later among high-NFC women. After controlling for prior mammography utilization, age, worry, intentions, perceived norms, suggestions to get a mammogram, and marital status, the interaction between participant NFC and message type also approached statistical significance. The differential influence of these brief, tailored communications diminished after 12 months, however.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mammography / psychology
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mental Processes
  • Middle Aged
  • New England
  • Pamphlets
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology
  • Persuasive Communication*
  • Social Marketing*