Message framing and sexual abstinence messages
The purpose of the present study was to examine the effects of message framing and perceived risk of abstinence on the sexual attitudes and intentions of college students. Based on previous research (e.g., Rothman & Salovey, 1997), I hypothesized that the impact of gain-framed abstinence messages, relative to loss-framed abstinence messages, would be greater to the extent a person perceives abstinence as a low-risk activity. The participants of this study (N = 183) reported their demographics, perceptions of risk of abstinence, perceptions of risk of having sex, attitudes toward having sex, sexual intentions, contextual risk and protective factors, sexual involvement, and perceptions of likelihood and level of harm if sexually active on a computerized questionnaire. One week later, they returned to view one of two computer presentations advocating sexual abstinence that varied in message frame (gain or loss). Following the computer presentation, participants reported their attitudes toward having sex, sexual intentions, perceptions of likelihood and level of harm if sexually active, evaluation of the presentation quality, perceptions of message framing, and the thoughts they had during the presentation. Analysis revealed a significant crossover interaction between perceived risk of abstinence and message framing. Unlike previous studies of health and message framing, when the message was gain-framed, participants' intentions to have sex were marginally higher when they perceived the risk of abstinence to be low than when they perceived the risk of abstinence to be high. When the message was loss-framed, participants' intentions to have sex were significantly lower when they perceived the risk of abstinence to be low than when they perceived the risk of abstinence to be high. The primary pattern was highly significant for males with the marginal effect of the gain-framed message becoming significant. The primary pattern was not significant for females. Implications for persuasion theory and for abstinence educators are discussed.
Patrick, Purdue University.
Social psychology|Public health|Educational psychology|Health education
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