Autonomy and reactions to health-risk information

Department of Psychology, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, UK.
Psychology & Health (Impact Factor: 1.95). 10/2009; 25(7):885-72. DOI: 10.1080/08870440902929528
Source: PubMed


It has been suggested that autonomy promotes enhanced reflection on novel information and reduces defensive or biased information processing. This study investigated how autonomy affected people's reactions to known versus novel health-risk information in relation to three behaviours: sun exposure, alcohol consumption and salt intake. Participants (N=321) completed a measure of autonomy, read either known or novel health-risk information and reported their relative autonomous motivation, attitudes, perceived behavioural control, subjective norm and intentions towards reducing the health-risk behaviour concerned. In line with our hypotheses, the results showed that higher autonomy participants reported greater relative autonomous motivation towards reducing health-risk behaviours than did lower autonomy participants; this effect was mediated by perceptions of the information as less freedom-threatening. The expected interaction between Autonomy and Information Type was not observed. The results indicate that autonomy is associated with greater relative autonomous motivation to engage in health behaviours, and that autonomous motivation may subsequently influence intentions to reduce health-risk behaviour following exposure to health-risk information.

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    ABSTRACT: OBJECTIVE: Previous studies have shown that gain-framed messages (vs. loss-framed messages) are more effective when advocating 'low-risk' prevention behaviours (e.g., diet, exercise, dental flossing) that minimize the risk of a health problem.The objective of the reported research was to explore whether autonomy moderated the effectiveness of gain-framed vs. loss-framed messages encouraging fruit and vegetable consumption. DESIGN: A prospective design was used for this study. METHOD: At time 1, participants (N = 177) completed a measure of autonomy and read either a gain-framed message (describing the benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption) or a loss-framed message (describing the disadvantages of not eating fruit and vegetables). At time 2, participants reported their fruit and vegetable consumption over the preceding 7 days. RESULTS: Autonomy moderated the effect of message framing. Gain-framed messages only prompted fruit and vegetable consumption amongst those with high levels of autonomy. CONCLUSION: The study identifies a key role for autonomy in shaping recipients' responses to framed messages promoting fruit and vegetable consumption. STATEMENT OF CONTRIBUTION: What is already known on this subject? Previous studies have shown that gain-framed messages (vs. loss framed messages) are more effective when advocating low-risk prevention behaviours (e.g., diet, exercise, dental flossing) that minimize the risk of a health problem. What does this study add? The current study is the first to demonstrate that the success of a gain-framed message to promote fruit and vegetable consumption is dependent on recipients' level of autonomy.
    British Journal of Health Psychology 11/2012; 18(3). DOI:10.1111/bjhp.12007 · 2.70 Impact Factor
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    Journal of Health Psychology 07/2013; 19(11). DOI:10.1177/1359105313493649 · 1.88 Impact Factor
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