Can Interactive Media Attenuate Psychological Reactance to Health Messages? A Study of the Role Played by User Commenting and Audience Metrics in Persuasion

Ruobing Li, S. Shyam Sundar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Health advocacy messages can generate psychological reactance and lead to message rejection. Could we offset this negative outcome by providing more agency and interactivity to message receivers? Are individuals more likely to be receptive if health campaigns provided them an opportunity to comment on the advocacy messages? Will they be more likely to follow the advocated behavior if a lot of other receivers have expressed approval of those messages, i.e., will they follow the bandwagon and show lesser reactance? We investigated these questions by conducting a 2 (bandwagon cue: strong vs. weak) X 2 (comment action: presence vs. absence) X 2 (message threat: high vs. low) between-subjects experiment (N = 179) with an online health message. Findings suggest that strong bandwagon cues can reduce reactance and improve persuasion by eliciting bandwagon perceptions. Comment action is associated with a strong sense of agency, which positively predicts intention to follow the message recommendation. Technological affordances interact with threat level of the message and with each other in influencing users’ evaluation and acceptance of persuasive health messages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHealth Communication
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication

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