Published: February 2016

ID #: 69802

Journal: Media Psychol

Authors: Vaala SE, Bleakley A, Hennessy M, Jordan AB

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Research suggests that media campaigns targeting weight-related behaviors may inadvertently increase stigmatization of obese and overweight individuals and could backlash such that stigmatized individuals are less likely to engage in healthy behaviors following exposure to the message. This study examines stigmatized and non-stigmatized parents’ emotional and cognitive responses to sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB)-reduction public service announcements (PSAs) with different emotional appeals, and the association of those responses in predicting participants’ intentions to reduce their own and their children’s SSB consumption. In an online survey experiment among 807 U.S. parents, participants were randomly assigned to view anti-SSB PSAs containing one of three persuasive appeals (fear, humor, or nurturance). Emotional responses, evaluation of argument strength, and intention to reduce SSB consumption were measured following PSA exposure. Non-stigmatized parents felt less empowerment and hope and perceived weaker arguments if they viewed humorous PSAs compared to those who had been stigmatized because of their weight. Higher perceptions of argument strength were associated with stronger intentions to reduce one’s own and one’s child’s SSB consumption. Among stigmatized parents only, strogner  negative emotional responses to the PSAs were associated with lower intentions to reduce one’s own SSB consumption.

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