The effects of tailored and threatening nutrition information on message attention. Evidence from an event-related potential study

Appetite. 2011 Feb;56(1):32-8. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2010.11.139. Epub 2010 Nov 19.


Recent evidence indicates that attention is higher for individually tailored as compared to non-tailored health communications. The present study examined whether the predicted increased attention for the tailored as opposed to general nutrition education messages is moderated by presenting high vs. low threat information about the negative consequences of an unhealthy diet. In a mixed subject experimental design, undergraduate students (N=34) were reading tailored and non-tailored nutrition education messages with either high or low threat information about the negative consequences of an unhealthy diet. At the same time, they had to pay attention to specific odd auditory stimuli in a sequence of frequent auditory stimuli (oddball paradigm). The amount of attention allocation was measured by recording event-related potentials (ERPs; i.e., N100, MMN, P300) and reaction times. Result revealed main effects of tailoring and threat, indicating that more attention resources were allocated to tailored vs. non-tailored messages and to low threat vs. high threat messages. The findings confirm that tailoring is an effective means to draw attention to health messages, whereas threat information seems to result in a loss in message attention.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Diet*
  • Evoked Potentials*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory
  • Female
  • Health Communication / methods*
  • Health Education / methods*
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Sciences*
  • Reaction Time
  • Young Adult