Gain-framed messages are more effective at promoting physical activity than loss-framed messages. However, the mechanism through which this effect occurs is unclear. The current experiment examined the effects of message framing on variables described in the communication behavior change model (McGuire, 1989), as well as the mediating effects of these variables on the message-frame–behavior relationship. Sixty low-to-moderately active women viewed 20 gain- or loss-framed ads and five control ads while their eye movements were recorded via eye tracking. The gain-framed ads attracted greater attention, ps < .05; produced more positive attitudes, p = .06; were better recalled, p < .001; influenced decisions to be active, p = .07; and had an immediate and delayed impact on behavior, ps < .05, compared with the loss-framed messages. Mediation analyses failed to reveal any significant effects. This study demonstrates the effects of framed messages on several outcomes; however, the mechanisms underlying these effects remain unclear.
Erin Berenbaum and Amy E. Latimer-Cheung are with the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Address author correspondence to Amy Latimer-Cheung at firstname.lastname@example.org.