Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Use of Message Framing and Color in Vaccine Information to Increase Willingness to Be Vaccinated

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Use of Message Framing and Color in Vaccine Information to Increase Willingness to Be Vaccinated

Article excerpt

Cases of H1N1 influenza were first reported in April of 2009 and it was declared to be a pandemic within six weeks. By July 2010, approximately 18,500 people had died from the disease (WHO, 2010). In Taiwan, cases continued to be reported in 2010, including a number of cases in a recruit training center in May and the death of a university student in July (Centers for Disease Control, 2010a). In order to prevent H1N1 flu from making a comeback or the virus from mutating, which would lead to another pandemic crisis, the World Health Organization continues to maintain its disease prevention mandate for H1N1 flu. The way to maintain public health and prevent another pandemic is for every country of the world to effectively and continuously promote H1N1 vaccine information so as to increase the vaccination rate.

The H1N1 vaccine is offered free of charge in Taiwan. Nevertheless, only 25% of Taiwanese people have been vaccinated. The vaccination rate among young people aged between 19 and 24 is as low as 3.6% (Centers for Disease Control, 2010a). Fedson (1994) suggested that efficient promotion is the key to an enhanced vaccination rate. So, what should the Taiwanese government do to increase the vaccination rate? Previous researchers have indicated that manipulating the framing of the message in line with prospect theory (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979) and the emotion of color when designing healthcare-promoting materials could help subconsciously influence individuals' willingness to accept information and their level of knowledge after being exposed to the information (for examples in message framing, see Abhyankar, O'Connor, & Lawton, 2008; Gerend & Shepherd, 2007; Gerend, Shepherd, & Monday, 2008; Gerend & Sias, 2009; McCaul & Johnson, 2002; for examples in the emotion of color, see Elliot, Maier, Moller, Friedman, & Meinhardt, 2007; Elliot & Niesta, 2008; Gerend & Sias, 2009).

Proponents of prospect theory (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979) hold that different ways of making a statement, despite the fact that each of the messages has same logical implications, will lead to different decisions. This is known as the message framing effect. A message in which it is emphasized that taking certain actions will result in benefits (e.g., smoking cessation improves your health and prolongs your life) is gain framed. Conversely, a message in which it is emphasized that unwillingness to take certain actions will lead to losses (e.g., smoking kills you slowly and painfully) is loss framed. Researchers who have explored message framing in relation to inoculation for the human papillomavirus vaccine, have found that people were more willing to be vaccinated when they saw loss-framed vaccination promotion messages (Gerend & Sias, 2009). Similarly, when researchers explored message framing in relation to the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination, loss-framed messages were found to be effective (Abhyankar et al., 2008). However, when McCaul and Johnson (2002) explored the relationship between the willingness of the elderly to get a flu shot and message framing, it was found that message framing did not appreciably change vaccination rates. As a result, further studies are required because it remains unclear whether or not differently framed messages affect the success of the promotion of vaccination. Furthermore, because university students have the lowest H1N1 flu vaccination rate in Taiwan this group is one that it would be advantageous to study for their reactions to the framing of the message about vaccination.

Another factor that can subconsciously influence respondents' emotions and cognition is color combination. Color often subconsciously affects people's decision-making processes (Elliot et al., 2007; Elliot & Niesta, 2008; Gerend & Sias, 2009). In the design of promotional materials, combinations of color with various types of texts/backgrounds have different influences on drawing attention (Laughery, 2006) and emotional responses (Backer, Rogers, & Sopory, 1992). …

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