Issue Involvement in a Persuasive Message
“Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved.” Mark Twain
Message framing is a term used to describe the way in which a message is presented to give either positive or negative connotations.
An effectively framed message can essentially influence someone’s opinion and shape the way they think about an issue – a pretty powerful skill to have!
It’s no surprise therefore that countless studies have been conducted all over the world so that this technique can be perfected and used to convince people to buy your product, vote for you, wear sunscreen, and the list goes on.
What’s interesting is the studies have produced contradictory results. Some found that putting a positive spin (focusing on benefits gained) on a message was more persuasive than putting a negative spin (focusing on benefits lost) on a message, whilst other studies showed the reverse was true.
Several theories as to why this might be so have been put forward, one of which is issue involvement.
Issue involvement refers to your level of association with the subject matter.
Maheswaran and Myers-Levy studied the role it plays, and found that when issue involvement was high, negatively framed messages were more persuasive, whereas when issue involvement was low, positively framed messages were more persuasive.
What this means for science communication is that we really need to look our target audience and how personally relevant the message you are trying to communicate is to them.
If your goal were to convince people to accept a new bird flu vaccination, how would you frame your message in a publication such as Mother and Baby?
a) Make an appointment to vaccinate your child today.
b) Vaccinations can save lives
c) If you don’t vaccinate your child they may get sick from bird flu
d) Vaccinate your child to prevent them from getting bird flu
e) Many lives were lost in the recent bird flu pandemic
Maheswaran, D., & Meyers-Levy, J. (1990). The influence of message framing and issue involvement. Journal of Marketing Research, 27, 361-367.