Translating the link between social identity and health behavior into effective health communication strategies: An experimental application using antismoking advertisements

Health Commun. 2014;29(10):1057-66. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2013.832830. Epub 2014 Jan 21.


Social identity is a construct that has been linked to health behavior. Yet, limited research has attempted to translate this relationship into health communication strategies. The current study addresses this gap by examining the efficacy of social identity targeting (constructing ads so that they target a specific group with which an individual identifies) to increase anti-cigarette smoking beliefs among adolescents. Two hundred and fifty one adolescents aged 12-15, randomly selected from a nationally representative sample, completed an online survey. Participants indicated which of 11 peer groups (determined in pre-testing) they most identified with. Each participant was then randomly assigned to view an ad that either did or did not target that group. One week later participants reported level of agreement with two key antismoking beliefs presented in the ad. Multiple regression analyses indicated that if an individual identified with the group targeted by the ad, antismoking beliefs were more strongly endorsed. Based on these findings, we conclude that social identity targeting has the potential to increase the effectiveness of antismoking messages and should be considered when designing antismoking campaigns.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Advertising*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Communication
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Peer Group*
  • Random Allocation
  • Regression Analysis
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Social Identification*