Moving beyond the function of the health behaviour: the effect of message frame on behavioural decision-making

Psychol Health. 2010 Sep;25(7):821-38. doi: 10.1080/08870440902893708.


Health messages that provide gain- or loss-framed arguments have a differential impact on behavioural decision-making (Rothman & Salovey, 1997). Typically, gain-framed messages more effectively promote preventive health behaviours, which maintain health and minimise the risk of a health problem, whereas loss-framed messages more effectively promote detection behaviours, which involve the risk of finding a health problem. Two experiments tested the thesis that the risk implications of the behaviour are an important determinant of the persuasive impact of gain- and loss-framed appeals. Results revealed that when the risk associated with a health behaviour (either a prevention behaviour in Experiment 1 or a detection behaviour in Experiment 2) was low, participants responded more favourably to gain-framed messages. However, when the risk associated with the health behaviour (either prevention or detection) was high, participants responded more favourably to loss-framed messages. Discussion focuses on the importance of taking into account how individuals construe a behaviour when constructing framed appeals.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Communication*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Persuasive Communication
  • Risk*
  • West Nile Virus Vaccines


  • West Nile Virus Vaccines