Objective: Use of message framing for encouraging vaccination, an increasingly common preventive health behavior, has received little empirical investigation. The authors examined the relative effectiveness of gain-versus loss-framed messages in promoting acceptance of a vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV)-a virus responsible for virtually all cases of cervical cancer.
Design: Undergraduate women (N = 121) were randomly assigned to read a booklet describing the benefits of receiving (gain-framed message) or the costs of not receiving (loss-framed message) a prophylactic HPV vaccine. After reading the booklet, participants indicated their intent to obtain the HPV vaccine.
Main outcome measure: A 5-item composite representing intentions to obtain the HPV vaccine.
Results: The effect of message framing on HPV vaccine acceptance was moderated by risky sexual behavior and approach avoidance motivation. A loss-framed message led to greater HPV vaccination intentions than a gain framed message but only among participants who had multiple sexual partners and participants who infrequently used condoms. The loss-frame advantage was also observed among participants high in avoidance motivation.
Conclusion: Findings highlight characteristics of the message recipient that may affect the success of framed messages promoting vaccine acceptance. This study has practical implications for the development of health communications promoting vaccination.