University Students Will Die If They Don’t Read This!!
I can’t guarantee that you won’t die by reading this, but you’re here so you might as well continue… So why are you here? Is it because you have to for science communication? Or is it because the title drew you in? While both are valid possibilities, let’s say that it is due to the title, which is an example of a negatively framed message. However was the death threat, the only factor that persuaded you to read further? No, says Maheswaran and Meyers-Levy, who published a paper on the influence of framing and issue involvement.
So messages can be framed positively and negatively and this will generally have an influence on the way that the audience is persuaded by that message. Positively framed messages will tell their audience of the benefits associated, for example ‘woman who do a breast self examination (BSE) have an increased chance of finding a tumour in the early, more treatable stage of the disease’ whereas a negative frame will focus on the benefits lost, ‘woman who do a breast BSE have a decreased chance of finding a tumour in the early, more treatable stage of the disease’. This concept of negative and positive frames can be found in most messages, from disease prevention to the humble carton of milk.
However, the issue of which frame is more persuasive to the audience is hotly contested with reports claiming the positive frame being the most effective and other saying the negative frame is the winner, and in the example above I think it’s safe to say that the negative frame would be more persuasive at getting women to check their breasts, but for instance if we look at milk, they claim to be 99% an example of a positive frame. Maheswaran and Meyers-Levy looked further into this aspect of communication to determine if the audience’s involvement in an issue will influence the message’s persuasiveness and as was found in the study the audience were less likely to respond to positively framed messages when there was a high involvement, although if the message was of low involvement then the negative framing would not be as effective as if it was positively framed.
So you could say that by using a negatively framed title and making it an issue of high involvement, as it was directed at university students, theoretically I was able to make the argument for reading my blog much more persuasive. However this information, that message framing and Issue involvement are important in creating a persuasive message, can have a much more practical use in the world of science communication.
Maheswaran, D & Meyers-Levy, J (1990) ‘The Influence of Message Framing and Issue Involvement’, Journal of Marketing Research, vol. 27, pp. 361-367.