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Be Mean or Be Nice? Understanding the Effects of Aggressive and Polite Communication Styles in Child Vaccination Debate

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The current study investigated the effect of communication style in the child vaccination debate. Based on expectancy violation theory, this study tested the effects of aggressive, neutral, and polite communication styles in the contexts of child vaccination, controlling for parents’ attitudes toward the issue. The online experiment showed that expectancy violation significantly mediates the relationship between message style and outcomes. The results provided a novel way to understand the effect of communication style on child vaccination message and practical implications for health communicators to operate communication style during interactions in health contexts.
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Health Communication
ISSN: 1041-0236 (Print) 1532-7027 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/hhth20
Be Mean or Be Nice? Understanding the Effects
of Aggressive and Polite Communication Styles in
Child Vaccination Debate
Shupei Yuan, John C. Besley & Wenjuan Ma
To cite this article: Shupei Yuan, John C. Besley & Wenjuan Ma (2018): Be Mean or Be Nice?
Understanding the Effects of Aggressive and Polite Communication Styles in Child Vaccination
Debate, Health Communication, DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2018.1471337
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2018.1471337
Published online: 08 May 2018.
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Be Mean or Be Nice? Understanding the Effects of Aggressive and Polite
Communication Styles in Child Vaccination Debate
Shupei Yuan
a
, John C. Besley
b
, and Wenjuan Ma
c
a
Department of Communication, Northern Illinois University;
b
Department of Advertising + Public Relations, Michigan State University;
c
Center for
Statistical Training and Consulting (CSTAT), Michigan State University
ABSTRACT
The current study investigated the effect of communication style in the child vaccination debate. Based
on expectancy violation theory, this study tested the effects of aggressive, neutral, and polite commu-
nication styles in the contexts of child vaccination, controlling for parentsattitudes toward the issue.
The online experiment showed that expectancy violation significantly mediates the relationship
between message style and outcomes. The results provided a novel way to understand the effect of
communication style on child vaccination message and practical implications for health communicators
to operate communication style during interactions in health contexts.
The ongoing debate on child vaccination, especially in terms
of the vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), has
lasted for decades. Although scientists have repeatedly shown
that there is no association between autism and the MMR
vaccine, the debate has not stopped. A report from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2018)on
vaccination coverage among children in kindergarten from
2013 to 2014 shows an alarming information. Twenty-six
out of fifty states reported that they did not meet the federal
target (95%) for MMR (Seither et al., 2014). Another study
shows that 57% of parents who delay and refuse vaccines say
they are concerned about autism, and 63% of them are afraid
of the possible side effects (Smith et al., 2011). The debate on
vaccinations and autism in the media has influenced many
parentsopinions and decisions (Petts & Niemeyer, 2004).
The consequences of this debate are likely to cause widespread
harm, thus attracting the attention of health practitioners and
researchers. In the U.S., one study shows that the Internet is
the dominant source for parents to learn about vaccines.
Unfortunately, parents have also received a lot of misinforma-
tion about vaccines from the Internet (Downs, De Bruin, &
Fischhoff, 2008). Given the quality heterogeneity of informa-
tion about vaccines on the Internet, it has been difficult for
parents to make timely and informed decisions regarding
vaccines, especially given the fact that certain vaccines have
to be administrated at specific ages. For example, the MMR
vaccine requires a two-dose series at ages 12 through
15 months and 4 through 6 years of age (Centers for Diease
Control and Prevention (CDC), 2018).
Therefore, finding effective ways to communicate with
parents about vaccinations has become a priority for health
and science communicators. Many factors that may affect the
promotion of vaccinating children have therefore been stu-
died. For example, a study in the United Kingdom investi-
gated the importance of face-to-face communication with
professionals and the effects of different information sources
on the persuasive effect (Petts & Niemeyer, 2004). Another
study found that specific information about vaccines has more
influence on parentsbehavioral changes than general vaccine
knowledge, and the influence of mass media campaigns is
greater than interpersonal sources such as health providers
(McDivitt, Zimicki, & Hornik, 1997). Meanwhile, researchers
have also investigated strategies that can be applied in persua-
sive message design, such as gain and loss frame (OKeefe &
Jensen, 2007). However, a paucity of research has examined
communication styles in the context of health communication
and how health communicators, such as vaccination activists,
utilize different styles of communication.
Despite the fact that there are no statistics showing how
often vaccine communicators use aggressive or polite com-
munication styles, one can easily find a great amount of
anecdotal evidence of aggressive and polite communication
regarding vaccines. Any review of Internet content on child
vaccination yields a large number of aggressive arguments.
For example, a pediatrician from UCLA used the words
dumb peopleto refer to anti-vaccine parents in an interview
with The New York Times (Nagourney & Goodnough, 2015).
Meanwhile, a columnist from The Los Angeles Times called
such people public enemieson his personal Twitter account
(Hiltzik, 2015). Furthermore, several medical doctors spoke
aggressively about anti-vaccine parents on Jimmy Kimmel
Live. This video alone had been watched almost 6 million
times as of late 2015 (Kimmel, 2015). Although there are
not many obvious, outstanding keywords to identify polite
CONTACT Shupei Yuan syuan@niu.edu Department of Communication, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115, USA.
Color versions of one or more of the figures in the article can be found online at www.tandfonline.com/hhth.
HEALTH COMMUNICATION
https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2018.1471337
© 2018 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
communication styles, it is also widely used by vaccine com-
municators. For example, a doctor mentioned that, during
conversations with parents, he often says, we also want
whats best for their children and that were all on the same
team(Yasgur, 2014). Another post from a vaccine advocate
wrote, We should usually respect parental medical choices
for children, unless they are not in the best interest of the
child(Vara, 2013).
Although these anecdotes are frequently encountered, few
studies have examined the effectiveness of communication
styles on individualsdecision-making processes. This work
considers how the use of these communication styles might
shape parentsviews about this issue during interactions with
health communicators. In the following sections, we review
the literature on these two communication styles in order to
further discuss the rationale for this focus.
Literature review
Communication style
Aggressive and polite communication styles should be under-
stood as two specific communication styles among a range of
potential styles described within a broad scope of literature.
Communication style can be defined as the characteristic way
a person sends verbal, paraverbal, and nonverbal signals in
social interactions denoting (a) who he or she is or wants to
(appear to) be, (b) how he or she tends to relate to people with
whom he or she interacts, and (c) in what way his or her
messages should usually be interpreted(De Vries, Bakker-
Pieper, Siberg, Van Gameren, & Vlug, 2009, p. 2). Previous
researchers have often used the term communication style
and communication toneinterchangeably (i.e., Edwards &
Noller, 1998). Researchers have categorized communication
style in different ways. For example, Sorenson and Savage
(1989) found two primary dimensions based on previous
studies: dominance, which is described as a directive approach
with little discussion; and supportiveness, which is described as
a delegated approach that gives audiences control over deci-
sion-making. Other similar dimensions from Dillard,
Solomon, and Palmer (1999) are affiliation, which is defined
as the extent to which one individual regards another posi-
tively,and dominance, which is defined as the degree to
which one actor attempts to regular the behavior of the other
(p. 53). Edwards and Noller (1998) proposed a communica-
tion tone rating scale with six items, including dominating,
respectful, warm, patronizing, supportive, and nurturing.
Despite that previous studies have used different terms, com-
munication style can be generally categories into two types,
one focuses on the dominant, aggressive, or forceful style,
which we refer as aggressive communication style in the
current study; and the other one focuses on the warm and
peaceful style, which we refer as polite communication style in
the current study.
Aggressive communication
Past research has helped clarify what should be understood as
aggressive communication, including verbal aggression,
language intensity, and incivility. First, verbal aggression is
defined as the tendency to attack the self-concepts of indivi-
duals instead of, or in addition to, their positions on topics of
communication(Infante, 1987, p. 164). In other words, more
than argument based the content, aggressive communication
involves an ad hominem argument that attacks a persons
character. Second, the literature on language intensity
explains the situations when the property of language that is
conveyed emotionally and deviates from a neutral position
(Bowers, 1963; Hamilton & Hunter, 1998; Hamilton, Hunter,
& Burgoon, 1990). The difference between verbal aggression
and language intensity is that verbal aggression thus does not
only include intensity, but also an attack (Greenberg, 1976;
Mosher & Proenza, 1968). Another related concept is incivi-
lity. Uncivil discourse has been defined as negative discourse
that includes gratuitous asides,which suggests a lack of
respect for and/or frustration with the opposition(Mutz &
Reeves, 2005, p. 5). Related research has found that the media,
such as blogs, radio shows, and television talk shows, have
helped uncivil discourse become more and more common,
especially in political communication (Higgins, Montgomery,
Smith, & Tolson, 2011). Based on the related concepts dis-
cussed above, in the current study aggressive communication
is defined as a style of language that combines intense emotion
with lack of respect and an attack on persons.
Although few research has investigated the effects of
aggressive style in health contexts, as one type of emotional
expressions, researchers have found that aggressive expres-
sions certainly influences recipientsresponses (Bippus &
Young, 2005). Other studies also suggest that the results of
aggressive communication may not benefit the communica-
tors. For example, a number of studies have showed that
perceived aggressiveness of an instructor decreased students
self-reported motivation, learning, and satisfaction (Martin,
Mottet, & Myers, 2000; Myers, 2002,2001; Myers & Rocca,
2000). Similarly, studies about incivility also found that such a
strategy tends to be counterproductive. For example, the
researchers inserted uncivil keywords into an article about
climate change and found that it had a negative influence
on readersperception of communicatorscredibility
(Thorson, Vraga, & Ekdale, 2010).
Aggressive communication is also often used in political
communication, such as highlighting the weakness of compe-
titors and creating misunderstanding of some terms (McNair,
2011). Although researchers have found that negative cam-
paign messages can damage the trustworthiness of the
attacker (Lau, Sigelman, & Rovner, 2007), such attacks are
still widely used because they seem to hurt the target more in
context of a political campaign where the goal is simply to get
more votes by a certain date, not to affect long term beha-
vioral change.
On the other hand, researchers have also found some
potential positive effects of an aggressive style. Specifically,
aggressive communication appears to be more entertaining in
political communication (Mutz & Reeves, 2005)and may
therefore be more appealing to some audiences. Further, it
may also encourage engagement from the audiences such as
viewing similar message again or sharing the messages
(Brooks & Geer, 2007; Mutz & Reeves, 2005). Aggressive
2S. YUAN ET AL.
communication is also observed in health domains; research-
ers found that assertive or aggressive communication some-
times is needed and appropriate for caregivers of children
with special health care needs (Pizur-Barnekow, Darragh, &
Johnston, 2011).
Another reason to expect a potential positive effect for
aggressive communication is the literature on powerful
speech. The literature about powerful language discusses
many features that jeopardize the power of a speech, such as
tag questions, hesitations, disclaimers, hedges, and polite
forms (Blankenship & Holtgraves, 2005; Erickson, Lind,
Johnson, & OBarr, 1978). Therefore, researchers have argued
that the absence of these features helps to increase the power
of a speech, which is positively associated with persuasive
effects such as message acceptance (Blankenship &
Holtgraves, 2005).
Although the effects found above have not been fully
examined within health communication contexts, it appears
that the open platform on the Internet for opinion exchange,
and the controversy of many health issues (such as child
vaccination, GMO product consumption, etc.) have made
uncivil or aggressive discourse a common element of online
health communication (Derks, Fischer, & Bos, 2008).
Polite communication
The literature on polite communication and similar concepts
illustrates the value of politeness in effective communication.
Verbal politeness is described as a type of linguistic behavior
that concentrates primarily on the alter and his/her image
(Held, 1989, p. 170). The core of polite communication is the
consideration of ones audience. This section reviews concepts
related to polite communication as well as the effects polite
communication.
Politeness theory (Brown & Levinson, 1987) provides a
broad framework that covers the basic rationale and impact
of polite communication. Specifically, the theory explains how
an individualsface,the positive social value a person effec-
tively claims,(Goffman, 1967, p. 5) may be threatened or
honored during a communication interaction. Brown and
Levinson (1987) argued that speech and communication
interactions are face-threatening acts (FTA). The theory sug-
gests that politeness can help mitigate threats to face and, in
turn, help the communicatoraudience relationship. The
research also notes that four types of approaches may be
available to reduce face threats using different levels of polite-
ness from low to high: The first and lowest level of politeness
is to use the direct approach without any re-dress (bald on
record); second is to use in-group or informal language to
present a group-accepted identity (positive face redress); third
is to minimize the imposition of an individuals autonomy
(negative face redress); the fourth and highest is to do FTA by
trying to address the issue indirectly (off record) (Brown &
Levinson, 1987). Using an appropriate level of politeness
allows a communicator to be more persuasive and build
stronger relationships with his or her audience (Goldsmith
& MacGeorge, 2000). Similar to politeness, literature on con-
trolling message has also indicated that a low-controlling
message, which uses more implicit and indirect language or
qualifiers such as maybeand perhaps,tends to be less
forceful and politer (Miller, Lane, Deatrick, Young, & Potts,
2007). Another concept that is related to polite communica-
tion is niceness. Although niceness is not clearly defined, De
Vries et al. (2009) identified a list of highest loading adjectives
and verbs that can represent niceness, such as softhearted,
polite, friendly, etc. They also conclude that niceness includes
components of friendliness (vs. unfriendliness), uncritical-
ness (vs. argumentativeness), modesty, and cheerfulness(p.
18). Another related concept in existing literature is warm
communication. For instance, the warm verbal communica-
tion tactics used by healthcare providerssuch as the use of
friendly language to encourage a patients involvement or
show caring (Arnold & Boggs, 1989)are similar to the
approaches in politeness theory.
Overall, based on the acts from politeness theory, polite
communication is comprised of two important components:
peaceful utterance (vs. intense emotion in aggressive commu-
nication) and closeness (vs. attack on persons). In the current
study, we define polite communication as a style that uses
warm language with the attempt to reinforce recipients
autonomy or build closeness with them.
Politeness theory was originally developed for the study of
interpersonal communication contexts (Brown & Levinson,
1987; Goldsmith & MacGeorge, 2000), but a few studies
have applied the theory to mass communication. In these
mass communication studies, politeness was found to be an
important factor in the effectiveness of communication. A
recent study in which an off-record (not directly confronted)
approach was found to be more favored than others demon-
strates the effectiveness of politeness strategy in advertising
message design (Pishghadam & Navari, 2012). Another study
applied politeness into health message framing and found that
offering the freedom of choicein skin cancer information
can mitigate readerspsychological reactance (Shen, 2014).
A number of studies also showed that approaches similar to
negative and positive face redress can achieve positive commu-
nication effects in different contexts. For instance, similar to
the approach of negative face redress, researchers who investi-
gated the intervention style of video doctors found that colla-
borative language (e.g., the act of asking permission) versus
restrictive language (e.g., the act of demanding) enhances
patientsperceptions of personal control as well as receptivity
to the video doctors message (Gerbert et al., 2003). Similar to
positive face redress, research on teachersimmediacy behavior
indicated that, besides nonverbal behavior, verbal behavior
such as humor or providing feedback can also enhance imme-
diacy between the teacher and students (Allen, Witt, &
Wheeless, 2006). Moreover, researchers found that warm com-
munication may also enhance customersexperience of a given
service (Webster & Sundaram, 2009).
Yet, because polite messages are often perceived as vaguer
and indirect, audiences may find them more ambiguous
(Miller et al., 2007), which may contradict the purpose of
the communication. As discussed earlier in aggressive com-
munication, polite formsmay also jeopardize the power of
speech, which directly influences the persuasion effect
(Blankenship & Holtgraves, 2005; Erickson et al., 1978;
Jenkins & Dragojevic, 2011).
HEALTH COMMUNICATION 3
In sum, the two opposing communication styles, aggres-
sive and polite communication styles are normally discussed
in different bodies of literature, and seem to represent two
opposing styles of communication. After reviewing the
existing studies and examining the effects of both commu-
nication styles, we conclude that aggressive communication
may be beneficial in terms of adding entertainment value, as
well as enhancing the power of a message to some extent,
but it can also weaken audiencesimpressions of the com-
municator and his or her message. On the other hand,
polite communication can be beneficial to the relationship
between communicator and interlocutor, but may be too
vaguetohavetheintendedeffect,whichmayalsoweaken
the power of the message. However, there are still unan-
swered questions about which communication style is more
effective in health communication and what is the mechan-
ism underneath the effects.
Although we did not specify the neutral style in this review,
it is included in the current study as a control condition that is
neither aggressive nor polite. The rationale of having a neutral
communication style is so we can better manipulate commu-
nication style and so the aggressive condition wont be mis-
taken as the impolite condition, or vice versa. Based on the
discussion above, we go on to propose the outcomes of the
study and hypothesize the effects of aggressive and polite com-
munication styles on several specific outcomes in the study.
Hypotheses and research questions
The literature on both aggressive and polite communication
indicates that exposing audiences to different styles of dis-
course can have different effectsboth positive and negative
on audiencesattitudes toward the message and the author.
Our hypotheses are designed to examine the effects on audi-
ence attitudes toward both the message and the writer in
terms of child vaccination.
First, perceived message quality is described as the strength
of arguments perceived by audiences, which is determined by
the amount of primarily favorable thoughts readers elicit from
the argument (Cacioppo, Petty, & Morris, 1983; Lavine &
Snyder, 1996). In other words, message quality is the extent
to which readers find an argument compelling, believable,
and/or convincing. Based on the research above, it is pre-
dicted that different communication styles will influence read-
ersattitudes differently. However, while previous studies have
provided evidence on both the positive and negative effects of
aggressive and polite styles, the directions between commu-
nication style and message quality in the current study is
unclear. We are interested in whether aggressive or polite
communication style may lead to higher level of perceived
message quality about vaccine.
RQ1: To what extent does communication style (aggressive
and polite vs. neutral) affect perceived message quality?
Second, a communicatorslikability is described as the degree
of favorable attitude an audience has toward a communicator
(Chaiken, 1980). Likability, like perceived message quality, is
considered an important indicator of the efficacy (persuasive-
ness) of a message (Reysen, 2005). In this regard, a favorable
attitude toward the communicator has been found to positively
influence message acceptance and attitude change (Whaley &
Wagner, 2000). Therefore, we also consider writer likability as
an outcome in this study. As opposed to the mixed findings on
perceived message quality, previous studies pointed to rela-
tively clearer outcomes regarding the effect of these two com-
munication styles on audiences perceptions of
communicators: a polite communication style leads to a higher
level of likability, while an aggressive style leads to reduced
likability. For instance, as reviewed earlier, warm language is
positively associated with care and compassion on the part of
the seller in customer service (Webster & Sundaram, 2009).
Similarly, instructors are seen as less likeable if he or she is
perceived to be verbally aggressive in communication with
students (Myers, 2001). Mutz and Reeves (2005) note that
although uncivil messages may be viewed as more interesting
and entertaining, these messages still have adverse effects on
how audiences perceive the communicator, particularly in
terms of trust. Therefore, we predict:
H1: Communication style will have a direct relationship with
writer likability. More specifically, readers will rate writers
with a polite communication style as more likable and writers
with an aggressive communication style as less likable.
Moreover, the goal of this study is not only to answer the
question of whether communication style influences persua-
siveness, but also how. Therefore, we use expectancy violation
theory (EVT) (J. Burgoon & Hale, 1988) to see if this approach
can help make sense of the hypothesized effects of aggressive
and polite communication.
Expectancy violation theory
In the current study, we adapt EVT (J. Burgoon & Hale, 1988)
as the lens for understanding how aggressive or polite com-
munication styles affect readersattitudes, as it appeared to be
a successful mediator in a related previous study (Yuan &
Besley, 2017). EVT states that an individual often holds cer-
tain expectations for the behaviors of others and that the
violation of these expectations can change arousal and thus
accelerate attitude and behavior change. What is important to
understand is that, underlying the theory of EVT is the idea
that people have normative expectations for what a source
may or may not say in persuasive discourses and that viola-
tions of these expectations often trigger attitudinal or beha-
vioral change (M. Burgoon & Miller, 1985). Previous studies
also successfully applied EVT in written communication (i.e.
Johnson, 2012), providing support for the use of EVT as the
theoretical foundation of the current study.
M. Burgoon and Miller (1985) framed aggressive messages as
one proposition that may negatively violate an individualsexpec-
tation. However, the researchers also stated that, if readers were
expecting an intense message, receiving a moderate one (i.e., polite
4S. YUAN ET AL.
messages) would result in a positive violation. Moreover, in
regards to swearing, Johnson (2012) found that the valence of
expectancy violation is positively related to the effectiveness of
the perceived message and audience perceptions of a speaker.
Therefore, in the current study, it is argued that the level of
perceived expectancy violation would further shift message recei-
versattitudes according to the level of perceived expectancy
violation. Based on the aforementioned literature on aggressive
and polite communication styles, we predict that:
H2a: Expectancy violation will mediate the relationship
between communication styles and message quality.
Specifically, an aggressive communication style is more likely
to be positively associated with individualsexpectancy viola-
tion and therefore results in lower perceived message quality. A
polite communication style is less likely to violate individuals
expectation and therefore results in higher message quality.
H2b: Expectancy violation will mediate the relationship
between communication style and writer likability. More spe-
cifically, an aggressive communication style is more likely to
be positively associated with individualsexpectancy violation
and therefore results in lower perceived writer likability. A
polite communication style is less likely to violate individuals
expectation and therefore results in higher writer likability.
The prospective participants in the current study are parents
with children under the age of 7, which are the active ages for
vaccination. It is also important to see whether attitudes
toward the message and the writer would affect their intention
to vaccinate their child in the future. A number of theories
such as the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) (Ajzen, 1991)
have discussed the positive relationship between positive atti-
tude and behavioral intention, therefore we predict:
H3a: Parents who perceive higher message quality have higher
level of intention to vaccinate their children in the future.
H3b: Parents who perceive the writer as more likable have
higher level of intent to vaccinate their children in the future.
We also recognize that parentspre-existing attitude toward
child vaccination would influence how they perceive the quality
of a message, the likability of a communication and their
intention of vaccinating their child. Therefore, the parents
attitude toward vaccine is a control variable in the model.
The theoretical model for the current study is presented as
Figure 1 below.
Method
An experiment using a between-subject design with three con-
ditions (aggressive, neutral, and polite style) was planned to test
the effects of different communication styles on audience per-
ception of communicator and message while assessing indivi-
dual expectation violations and agreement with child
vaccination in the context of vaccine communication. This
experiment was conducted online through Qualtrics with parti-
cipants from Amazons Mechanical Turk (mTurk).
Sample
To ensure participants were appropriate audiences of child vac-
cination information, we used five screening questions to ensure
that participants were parents who had at least one child between
age 0 and 7, the suggested age range for the MMR vaccine
(Centers for Diease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2018). The
study only focused on the U.S. population in order to rule out
culture as a confounding variable. The data were cleaned and
filtered before data analysis. Answers from those who failed to
respond to the attention check question and successfully recall
the authors attitude in the issue were removed from the dataset.
A total of 287 participants finished the survey.
The average age of participants was 34 (SD = 9.53). A total of
57% of participants were female. Majority of participants were
white (77%), followed by African American (7%), Asian (6%),
and others. Five percent of the participants were Hispanic or
Latino. A total of 9% of the participants received high school
education, 31% received some college education, 40% received
a bachelors degree, 14% received a masters degree or higher. A
total of 107 parents reported only having one child, and 126
parents reported that they have two or more children.
Stimuli
A short blog article (about 450 words) from the Internet target-
ing parents who do not want to vaccinate their children was
used as one of the stimuli in the study. We treated the original
article (with limited editing) as the stimulus for aggressive
condition (To dumb parents who do not vaccinate their chil-
dren, 2015). This article was then modified by removing the
aggressive elements such as attacks on specific targets (Infante &
Wigley, 1986) to serve as the stimulus in neutral condition.
Based on the politeness strategies proposed by Brown and
Levinson (1987), the article was similarly repurposed into a
polite version for the polite condition. The message conditions
were pre-tested to ensure the manipulation.
Communication Style:
Polite
Neutral (control)
Aggressive
Expectancy
violation Covariate: Attitude
toward the vaccine
(a) Message quality
(b) Writer likability
RQ1, H1
H2a-b
H3a-b Behavioral
Intention
Figure 1. Theoretical framework.
HEALTH COMMUNICATION 5
Procedure
Participants were invited to answer five screening questions,
such as gender and age. One of the questions asked whether
all their children were above the age of seven. This was meant
to mask the purpose of the study in order to avoid partici-
pants selecting the desired response rather than answering
truthfully. Participants received $.05 for the screening ques-
tions, and those who passed the screening questions and
finished the main study received $0.45 as incentive. Eligible
participants were asked to read an informed consent form and
then directed to a page saying they were being asked to help to
assess a communicators writing by evaluating an article
related to child vaccination. Before viewing the article, parti-
cipants were asked to answer a set of questions related to their
attitude toward child vaccination as well as a set of questions
on their past decisions regarding vaccinating their child.
Participants were then randomly assigned to one of the
three conditions. After reading the blog article, they were
asked a series of questions assessing participantsperceived
aggressiveness, perceived politeness, expectancy violation,
perceived quality of the message, likeability of the author,
and behavioral intention. They were thanked and debriefed
at the end of the survey. A total of 1,404 mTurk participants
answered the screening questions, and 287 of them were
eligible after the data cleaning procedure.
Measurement
Message quality was measured by a seven-item scale includ-
ing questions such as believable/unbelievable, compelling/
not compelling, convincing/unconvincing,(Hullett, 2002).
The items for expectancy violation were adopted from the
research of J. Burgoon and Walther (1990). We carried out
manipulation checks for both of them, such as the authors
writing was too aggressive/polite as a writeror the author
used an abnormally polite/aggressive writing style for a
communicator(reversed). Writer likability was captured
by seven items: If I were to meet a writer like the author
of the article, I would expect him to be a) friendly, b)
likable, c) warm, d) approachable, e) similar to me; f)
worth asking for advice; g) knowledgeable(Reysen, 2005).
Attitude toward vaccination was assessed by four items,
including bad/good, unfavorable/favorable (MacKenzie,
Lutz, & Belch, 1986), and whether they find vaccination is
beneficial for their family and the society. Behavioral inten-
tion was measured by one question as if you have the
opportunity to vaccinate your child in the future, what
would you decide, the choice varies from definitely not
vaccinateto definitely vaccinate.All items, Cronbachs
alphas and loadings of the measurement model are reported
in Table 1.
Missing value handling
The online questionnaire allowed the respondents to skip
questions. Thus, there is incompleteness in the dataset.
Missing values could bias the estimates or reduce the statis-
tical power left unhandled. We looked into the missing
pattern of the data. The results showed that there are only
small amount of missing values. Two hundred and eighty-one
participants completed the survey. Only six of them submitted
incomplete surveys. Furthermore, four of them had missing-
ness at different variables. Two of them have missing values at
same variables. Therefore, we concluded that the missingness
would have limited influence on the estimation. Therefore, we
used pairwise deletion to handle the missing values, which
would utilize all information that is available in the dataset.
Data analysis
We used SPSS and Mplus to conduct the data analysis. To build
the mediated moderation model and analyze the data, we used
structural equation modeling with Mplus. We built a structural
regression model, which estimates the measurement model and
the path model simultaneously. The measurement model is a
confirmatory factor analysis. The indicators for the constructs
are specified in Table 1. We also reported the loadings of the
indicators in Table 1. The path model is based on the hypoth-
eses developed from the conceptual model with message quality,
writer likability and behavioral intention as the endogenous
variables, expectancy violation as the mediator, communication
style and attitude toward vaccine as the exogenous variables.
Among all the variables, attitude toward vaccine, message
quality, writer likability, and expectancy violation are latent
Table 1. Estimates of measurement model.
Est. SE
Std.
Est. p
Cronbachs
alpha
Expectancy violation .91
(AVE = 0.68)
The scientists writing was
appropriate for a scientist.
1.00 .00 .91
The scientist wrote in the way that I
would expect most scientists to
write.
.82 .05 .78 .00
The scientist used a normal writing
style for a scientist.
.82 .08 .78 .00
Message quality .96
(AVE = 0.82)
Unbelievable/Believable 1.00 .00 .89
Unconvincing/Convincing 1.00 .03 .89 .00
Not compelling/Compelling 0.98 .03 .88 .00
Illogical/Logical 1.04 .02 .93 .00
Implausible/Plausible 1.00 .03 .89 .00
Unreasonable/Reasonable 1.03 .03 .92 .00
Not sound/Sound 1.04 .03 .92 .00
Writer Likability .95
(AVE = 0.65)
Not at all friendly/Very friendly 1.00 .00 .79
Not at all likable/Very likable 1.02 .03 .81 .00
Not at all warm/Very warm 0.91 .04 .73 .00
Not at all approachable/Very
approachable
0.93 .06 .74 .00
Not at all similar to me/Very similar
to me
0.73 .07 .60 .00
Not at all worth asking for advice/
Very worth asking for advice
1.10 .06 .86 .00
Not at all knowledgeable/Very
knowledgeable
1.18 .06 .92 .00
Not at all friendly/Very friendly 1.22 .06 .94 .00
Pre-attitude .85
(AVE = 0.92)
Attitude toward child vaccination. . .
Bad/Good
1.00 .00 .96
Attitude toward child vaccination. . .
Unfavorable/Favorable
1.01 .01 .97 .00
Vaccine. . .not at all beneficial/
extremely beneficial. . . to society
1.00 .02 .96 .00
Vaccine. . .not at all beneficial/
extremely beneficial. . .to you and
your family
.99 .02 .94 .00
6S. YUAN ET AL.
variables. The indicators of these variables are ordinal vari-
ables with seven points. Some of the indicators have skewed
distributions. Therefore, we used weighted least square
adjusted for sample mean and variance (WLSMV) as the
estimator. Furthermore, to estimate the standard errors for
the indirect effects correctly we used bootstrapping technique.
The number of the bootstraps was 100,000.
Results
Manipulation check
The manipulation check questions on individualsperceived
aggressiveness and politeness were asked during the main test.
An ANOVA test showed a significant difference between
aggressive, neutral and polite messages in terms of perceived
aggressiveness (F(2, 285) = 81.27, p< .01, η
2
= .36). On a
seven-point scale, respondents reported that the aggressive
blog message was substantially more aggressive (M= 6.04,
SD = 1.13), followed by the neutral message (M= 4.97,
SD = 1.18), and the polite message (M= 3.85, SD = 1.27).
The difference in perceived politeness is also significant (F(2,
285) = 81.27, p< .01, η
2
= .43), as respondents reported that
the polite message was substantially politer (M= 4.68,
SD = 1.16), than the neutral message (M= 3.33, SD = 1.35),
and the aggressive message (M= 2.05, SD = 1.23).
Hypotheses test
We used structural equation modeling to answer the research
question and to test the hypotheses. First, the fit indexes of the
model show that the model fit the data adequately (χ
2
(245) = 555.51, p< .01; CFI = .99, TLI = .99, RMSEA = .07).
We present all the coefficients in Table 2. In the following
section, we also pull out the specific coefficients as needed.
RQ1 and H1 investigated the relationship between com-
munication style and message quality as well as writer lik-
ability. The results on total effect showed that aggressive style
had negative effect on message quality (β=.45, p< .01), but
no significant effect between polite style and message quality
(β= .12, n.s.), which suggests that aggressive message style is
likely to result in negative reaction on the message quality.
Meanwhile, the results showed that aggressive style had sig-
nificant negative effect on writer likability (β=.44, p< .01)
and polite style had a significant positive effect on writer
likability (β= .53, p< .01). The results suggest that individuals
are likely to find a polite writer more likable and an aggressive
writer less likable. H1 is supported. Further results on the
direct relationship between communication style and message
as well as writer likability are reported in mediation analysis
below.
H2a-b proposed the mediation effect of expectancy viola-
tion between communication styles and (a) message quality
and (b) writer likability. The tests for the indirect effects
showed that both aggressive and polite communication styles
had statistically significant indirect effects on message quality.
First of all, the aggressive communication style positively
violated an individuals expectation (β= .83, p< .01), which
in turn resulted in lower message quality (β=.66, p< .01).
The indirect effect of aggressive communication style on
message quality was statistically significant (β=.54,
p< .01). However, aggressive communication style had no
significant direct effect on message quality (β= .10, n.s.),
which suggests that the effect of aggressive style on message
quality was fully mediated by expectancy violation. On the
other hand, polite communication style negatively affected
expectancy violation (β=.61, p< .05) and in turn, resulted
in lower message quality (β=.66, p< .01). Thus, polite
communication style had a positive indirect effect on message
quality (β= .40, p< .01). Both the direct (β=.28, p< .05)
and the indirect effect (β= .40, p<.01) of polite communica-
tion style on message quality were statistically significant
which suggests that the effect of polite style on message
quality is partially mediated by expectancy violation.
Therefore, H2a is supported.
When it comes to the writer likeability, we found that both
communication styles had significant indirect effects on write
likability. First, the aggressive communication style was posi-
tively associated with expectancy violation (β= .83, p< .05),
which further had a negative effect on writer likability
(β=.67, p< .01). The indirect effect of aggressive commu-
nication style on writer likability was negative and significant
(β=.55, p< .01). The direct effect of aggressive commu-
nication style on writer likeability was insignificant (β= .11, n.
s.), which suggests that the effect of aggressive style on writer
likability is fully mediated by expectancy violation. On the
other hand, the polite communication style had a significant
and positive indirect effect on writer likability (β= .40,
p< .01). However, the direct effect of polite communication
style on writer likability was not significant (β= .12, n.s.).
Therefore, H2b is supported as well.
In summary, expectancy violation completely mediated the
effects of aggressive communication style on message quality
(the direct effect was not significant: β= .10, n.s.; the indirect
Table 2. Coefficient estimates of structural model.
Est. SE Std. Est. p
Aggressive style Expectancy violation .83 .17 .37 .00
Polite style Expectancy violation .61 .16 .27 .00
Aggressive style Message quality .10 .15 .05 .51
Polite style Message quality .28 .13 .14 .04
Expectancy violation Message quality .66 .10 .76 .00
Pre-attitude Message quality .62 .05 .64 .00
Aggressive style Writer likability .11 .13 .06 .40
Polite style Writer likability .12 .12 .07 .29
Expectancy violation Writer likability .67 .10 .82 .00
Pre-attitude Writer likability .41 .06 .46 .00
Message quality Behavioral intention .33 .14 .30 .02
Writer likability Behavioral intention .08 .16 .07 .63
Pre-attitude Behavioral intention .80 .05 .76 .00
Indirect effects
Aggressive style Expectancy violation
Message quality
.54 .14 .00
Polite style Expectancy violation
Message quality
.40 .11 .00
Aggressive style Expectancy violation
Writer likability
.55 .15 .00
Polite style Expectancy violation
Writer likability
.40 .12 .00
Total effects
Aggressive style Message quality .45 .14 .00
Polite style Message quality .12 .14 .41
Aggressive style Writer likability .44 .13 .00
Polite style Writer likability .53 .12 .00
HEALTH COMMUNICATION 7
effect was significant β=.54, p< .01) and writer likability
(the direct effect was not significant β= .11, n.s., the indirect
effect was significant β=.55, p< .01). However, it partially
mediated the effect of polite communication style on message
quality both the direct β=.28, p< .05 and indirect effects
were significant (β= .40, p< .01). The effect of style on writer
likability was completely mediated by expectancy violation
(the direct effect was not significant: β= .12, n.s., but the
indirect effect was significant β= .40, p< .01). In other words,
expectancy violation explained how aggressive messages led to
more negative outcomes, while polite messages led to more
positive outcomes. Indirect, direct and total effects are
reported in Table 2.
Lastly, the SEM results showed that parentsbehavioral
intention to have their child/children vaccinated was posi-
tively influenced by the message quality (β= .33, p< .05),
but not significantly influenced by writer likability (β=.08,
n.s.). Therefore, H3a was supported, but H3b was not sub-
stantiated. The estimates are reported in Table 2.
Discussion
The research investigated the mechanism of how communica-
tion styles influence persuasion outcomes including message
quality and writer likeability. We had several novel and the-
oretical meaningful findings. We summarized the findings as
the following: first, the total effects of aggressive communica-
tion style on message quality and writer likeability were sig-
nificant and negative. However, given the fact that the direct
effects on message quality and writer likeability were both
positive, we could conclude that the indirect effects of aggres-
sive communication style were partially counteracted by the
direct effects, which suggests that aggressive messages can
increase the perceived message quality if it does not violate a
readers expectation. Second, a polite message does not have
positive effect on message quality. Although the direct effect
of polite communication style on message quality shared a
similar story with the effect of aggressive communication
style, the total effect of the polite message was insignificant
because the direct effect of polite communication was rela-
tively large and the indirect effect was entirely cancelled out.
Both findings above also illustrate the importance of expec-
tancy violation, which can significantly affect the overall
influence of message style on individuals perception.
The findings from the current study also explained the
inconsistency on the effects of aggressive communication
from previous literature. Several previous researchers
(Brooks & Geer, 2007; Mutz & Reeves, 2005) suggested posi-
tive effects of aggressive communication style, such as enhan-
cing the intensity of the argument, were also observed in the
current study and explained by EVT.
The audiences found that polite communicators are more
likeable than the aggressive communicators are. The reason
behind is that the aggressive communication style violates audi-
encesexpectations for the communicators. Moreover, consis-
tent with previous findings on writer likability, the direct and
indirect effects of polite communication style on writer like-
ability were additive to each other, and therefore, the total effect
of polite communication style on writer likeability was larger
than both the direct and indirect effects.
The results yielded some interesting and surprising findings
on the effect of communication styles, especially when expec-
tancy violation is introduced in the model. However, it is worth
noticing that the aggressive and polite communication style only
influence perceived message quality when the message style
meets audiencesexpectations. Communicators may receive
positive reaction on the message itself when applying unexpected
aggressive communication style, but they also need to face the
negative view of themselves. Considering the findings that mes-
sage quality significantly affected behavioral intention and writer
likeability had no significant effect on behavioral intention, the
value of increasing perceived message quality is critical for
vaccine communicators.
Another contribution we made to this line of research is
that we extended the research on the effects of communica-
tion style into health communication context. As we pointed
out in the introduction section, aggressive language is com-
monplace in health communication. Our findings indicated
that when communicating health information, a communica-
tor should understand the audience and think strategically
about the message style. It might be the case that a commu-
nicator could deliver a powerful message by being aggressive.
The current study provides another practical implication for
health communicators, especially for those who work on
controversial issues. The findings suggest that communicators
should be aware of the expectations that the audiences have
on them in order to achieve desirable outcomes.
Limitation and future study
The current study is not without limitation. First, although
the current study tested the valence of expectancy violation, it
was mainly used as manipulation check. Future research can
further investigate the effect of violation valence in indivi-
duals information process. Second, the current study
included parentspre-existing attitude toward vaccine as a
covariate. However, the distribution of the variable was extre-
mely skewed, which suggests that the majority of participants
hold positive views regarding vaccination. It is worth investi-
gating to what extent pre-existing attitude would affect how
individuals perceive communication styles in the future.
Third, the data were collected from U.S. users of mTurk.
mTurk participants may not represent the targeted popula-
tion. We used mTurk to collect the data using the following
considerations. Prior research shows that mTurk participants
in the U.S. fall into the age range we expected for parents and
that the gender distribution is close to even. Furthermore, the
mTurk sample of our study is not fully representative of the
entire worlds population. The child vaccination status might
be different in other countries. The degree to which commu-
nication style may affect expectancy violation might also vary
by country. In the experiment we conducted, participants only
encountered messages via written texts, we reconigze that in
real life parents may receive messages with different commu-
nication modes in different contexts or channels. Although
the current study only considered accepting vaccination as the
ultimate objective, in the context of vaccination or health
8S. YUAN ET AL.
communication in general, other objectives can also be con-
sidered such as promoting and sharing information about
vaccine. Future study can expand the current line of research
to examine the effects of communication style on other com-
munication objectives related to child vaccination besides
persuading parents to accept vaccines for their children,
such as willinginess to promote vaccination or donate to
related organizations.
ORCID
John C. Besley http://orcid.org/0000-0002-8778-4973
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10 S. YUAN ET AL.
... Using Stalnaker's (2002) model of Common Ground and Caponigro and Sprouse's (2007) concepts of Speaker's and Addressee's Beliefs, the author redefines the nature of the answers implied by RQs, claiming that they are imposed on the Addressee rather than mutually recognized as obvious. Based on the model of communication styles as defined by Yuan et al. (2018), RQs are classified into aggressive, friendly and sarcastic/ironical questions with imposed answers. The analysis of the corpus, which consisted of 275 RQs taken from ten American movie scripts, showed that friendly RQs are more common than the other two types, and that, in instances where one of the interlocutors is in a superior position, superior-to-inferior RQs are by far more common than vice versa. ...
... A new classification of RQs will be proposed, with some modifications, on the basis of the model of communication styles as defined by Yuan et al. (2018). Their interpretation, which essentially limits communication styles to only two (the aggressive and polite one), offers a good basis for classifying RQs into those that are used to put down, criticize or verbally attack the Addressee (or his/her views), and those that represent attempts to draw the Addressee's attention to something, persuade, or affect his/her opinion in a friendly way. ...
... Therefore, it relates to the way in which a message, along with the Speaker's feelings towards the Addressee, is expressed. While different types of communication styles might be identified, 10 they all, as noted by Yuan et al. (2018) The former is characterized by verbal aggression (attacking a person's character rather than his/her views), language intensity (showing intense emotions), and/or incivility (lack of respect), while the latter is based on a respectful, friendly approach and showing consideration for others. Both of these styles can produce positive or negative communicative effects. ...
Article
Full-text available
Rhetorical questions (RQs), as a crossbreed of questions and statements, represent an effective tool in putting forward the Speaker's ideas, as well as influencing the ideas and opinions of other people. Because of their communicative effectiveness and multifunctionality, they are frequently used in different contexts and for different purposes, and, as such, they represent an interesting topic for further research. The aim of this paper is threefold: (i) to explore the nature of the implied answer to RQs, (ii) to offer a classification of RQs based on the Speaker's communication style, and (iii) to examine whether (or to what extent) the Speaker-Addressee relationship (peer-to-peer, superior-to-inferior, inferior-to-superior) influences the selection and frequency of use of different types of RQs. Using Stalnaker's (2002) model of Common Ground and Caponigro and Sprouse's (2007) concepts of Speaker's and Addressee's Beliefs, the author redefines the nature of the answers implied by RQs, claiming that they are imposed on the Addressee rather than mutually recognized as obvious. Based on the model of communication styles as defined by Yuan et al. (2018), RQs are classified into aggressive, friendly and sarcas-tic/ironical questions with imposed answers. The analysis of the corpus, which consisted of 275 RQs taken from ten American movie scripts, showed that friendly RQs are more common than the other two types, and that, in instances where one of the interlocutors is in a superior position , superior-to-inferior RQs are by far more common than vice versa. The finding that RQs asked by inferiors make up less than a third of RQs occurring between interlocutors with different social standing is in line with the view that answers to RQs are imposed on Addressees.
... them and highlighting their weaknesses, such messages are found to be more intensive than the nonaggressive approach (McNair, 2011). In addition, aggressive messages are found to be more entertaining (Mutz and Reeves, 2005), more engaging (Brooks and Geer, 2007), and of higher quality as long as it does not violate the audience's expectations (Yuan et al., 2018). In contrast, the negative effects of aggressive communication are also well-documented. ...
... EVT states individuals' expectations toward the behaviors of others, which is considered a type of belief, can be violated if the behaviors deviate from their expectation range, and the violation can cause arousal and thus accelerate attitudinal and behavioral change (Burgoon and Miller, 1985). Several studies have provided empirical evidence for this argument (Bain et al., 2012;Johnson, 2012;Yuan et al., 2018). Expectancy violation has been applied to understand political humor (Walther-Martin, 2015) as well as in the teacher-student communication (Sidelinger, 2014). ...
... Our results showed that perceived humorousness decreased the level of expectancy violation, but perceived aggressiveness increased the level of expectancy violation, which further negatively affected activism intentions. Previous studies have shown consistent findings on expectancy violation being the underlying mechanism of aggressive communication styles (Yuan and Besley, 2017;Yuan et al., 2018). The findings here expanded our understanding by confirming the power of expectancy violation in explaining the effects of humorous styles as well. ...
Article
The current study investigated how individuals process aggressive and humorous video messages communicating childhood vaccination and climate change. Employing psychological reactance, message discounting and expectancy violation, we built a theoretical model that explains the effects of communication styles on individuals’ activism intentions. Two online experiments in the United States (N = 441 and N = 533) using self-created videos on the topics of childhood vaccination and climate change were conducted to examine this model. The results showed that both perceived aggressiveness and humorousness of the videos led to higher message discounting, which then resulted in stronger activism intentions. Perceived aggressiveness led to higher expectancy violation, while perceived humorousness led to lower expectancy violation, which negatively affected activism intentions. The role played by psychological reactance was inconsistent across the two contexts. The findings provide theoretical implications for understanding how individuals process aggressive and humorous communication styles, especially in relation to discussions on science issues.
... The study also investigates the mechanisms that drive the potential effects of aggressive communication. Prior research has used expectancy violation theory (EVT; J. Burgoon & Hale, 1988) to explain aggressive communication styles in science communication contexts such as vaccination (Yuan et al., 2018) and genetically modified organisms (Yuan & Besley, 2017). EVT states that individuals have expectations-as a type of belief-of the behaviors of others, and that the violation of these expectations can change arousal and thus accelerate attitudinal and behavioral change (M. ...
... Perceived aggressiveness. We used a single item to assess perceived aggressiveness of the article adapted from Yuan et al. (2018): "Considering the style of the blog, how aggressive or nonaggressive would you say this blog article was?" Participants rated on a 7-point scale ranging from 1 = extremely nonaggressive to 7 = extremely aggressive (M = 4.86, SD = 1.57). ...
... Its use in mediated communication, especially in explaining the effects of communication styles is still limited. A few studies have adopted EVT to explain how aggressive communication styles function (e.g., Yuan & Besley, 2017;Yuan et al., 2018). Consistent with their findings, the current study established expectancy violation as the underlying mechanism for the aggressive communication of a different science topic, illustrating the generalizability of expectancy violation as a mediator beyond a specific context. ...
Article
The current study examined the effects of aggressive communication styles on individuals’ pro-environmental behavioral intentions. Two underlying mechanisms—psychological reactance and expectancy violation—as well as the moderating role played by political ideology were investigated. An online experiment ( N = 423) was conducted and the results showed that more aggressive style was more likely to trigger psychological reactance and violation of expectation, liberals responded more negatively to the aggressive message than conservatives, and expectancy violation was an important mediator. The findings provide explanations for how communication styles affect individuals’ information processing and offer implications regarding selecting communication styles wisely.
... For instance, some found that aggressive campaign messages damage the trustworthiness of political candidates (Lau et al., 2007). In science communication, uncivil and intense messages also exert detrimental impacts on perceived source credibility, and more importantly, compliance with the scientific recommendations (Yuan et al., 2019a). Previous research has attempted to explain the mixed findings on the effects of aggressive communication by including other factors that may affect individuals' perceptions, including the characteristics of the communicator such as gender or role (Yuan and Besley, 2017). ...
... Writer likeability. We used four semantic differential items adopted from earlier research to measure writer likeability (Short et al., 1976;Yuan et al., 2019a). With a 5-point scale, participants rated the extent to which they think the writer is sensitive (1 "insensitive" to 5 "sensitive"), warm (1 "cold" to 5 "warm"), personal (1 "impersonal" to 5 "personal"), and sociable (1 "unsociable" to 5 "sociable"). ...
Article
Full-text available
This study examined the influences of perceived distance to communicator on the effects of aggressive style (i.e. personal attacks and intense languages) in communicating scientific issues such as COVID-19 to the public. With a multi-site experiment ( N = 464), we found that aggression led to a heightened violation of expected social norm regarding communication styles. However, the interpretation of violation varied depending on the individual’s perceived distance to the communicator. Close distance articulated the urgency and severity of COVID-19 risks conveyed with aggression, which further increased compliance with the message. Far distance perception amplified aggression’s negative influence on writer likeability. The findings showed that aggressive communication may generate positive outcomes when dealing with public understanding of scientific issues such as COVID-19, but communicators need to build a closer connection with their audience.
... Previous studies have explored views about communication objectives with key science communication actors, including scientists , science communication trainers , science communication scholars , and scientific societies (Yuan et al., 2019). The findings showed that scientists and scientific societies often still prioritize traditional knowledge-based objectives (i.e. ...
Article
Science communicators who explicitly seek to achieve specific outcomes and goals efficiently and effectively are engaged in strategic science communication. The current study used qualitative interviews to explore how science bloggers view and practice strategic science communication. Interviews with 20 science bloggers who cover various scientific topics suggest that many science bloggers actively apply a range of techniques in their writing but vary in the degree to which they are strategic in using these techniques to try to achieve specific communication outcomes. The findings highlight the value of science blogs in terms of their potential to have a collective and cumulative impact on audiences and provide a window to the future development of online science communication, particularly in areas of objective setting.
... Based on the effects found previously, we argue that communication styles can be applied in strategic science communication in order to enhance the positive effects or diminish the negative effects of communication messages, particularly with aggressive and polite styles. Here, we provide a summary of the description and major findings on both aggressive and polite communication styles (see a review of Yuan, Besley, & Ma, 2018). ...
Article
The present study investigated the effects of communication styles, source expertise, and audiences’ preexisting attitudes in the contexts of the debate regarding genetically modified organisms. A between-subject experiment (N = 416) was conducted manipulating communication styles (aggressive vs. polite) and the expertise of the communicator (scientist vs. nonscientist) in blog articles. The results showed significant effects of communicator expertise and individuals’ preexisting attitudes on writer likability and message quality, depending on the communication style used. Expectancy violation was found as a significant mediator that explains the differences. These findings provided a plausible explanation for the way in which communication styles work in science communication contexts and offered practical implications for science communicators to communicate more strategically.
... Attacks on "self-concepts of individuals" will intrinsically incite identity protective cognition that will influence the interpretation of the message. A recent study by Yuan, Besley, and Ma (2018) found that when aggressive science communication violated participants' expected norms of a communication style suitable for a scientist, the aggressive communication was negatively related to message quality and the likeability of the author. While at the time of this writing, there is no published research that has examined the influence of communication aggression of a message and intensity of identity protective cognition and motivated reasoning, it is reasonable that the perceived aggressiveness of a message would interact with identity protection/affirmation cognition depending on whether the message is aggressive and threatens (or affirms) a person's identity, group membership, or cultural schema. ...
Article
A randomized experiment of 1,024 U.S. adults was conducted to examine the effect of the war on science frame on perceptions of scientists’ credibility. Because recent use of this frame is a response to the Trump Administration, those who politically align with him (e.g., conservatives) are likely to experience identity threat when confronted with the war on science frame. Results show that when viewed as aggressive, the war on science frame prompted conservatives to report lower agreement with a scientist credibility index than liberals, suggesting that the war on science frame has the potential to further polarize science.
Article
Sharing information about disasters and victims on social media can help raise situational awareness, enhance issue-related knowledge, promote prosocial behaviors and rebuild a sense of community during the recovery stage. In the current study, we investigate two specific ways of framing victim information, how they influence the likelihood of sharing such information on social media, and the underlying cognitive and emotional mechanisms. Participants (N = 631) were randomly assigned to 1 of 12 experimental conditions as part of 2 (victim exemplification: present vs. absent) × 2 (provocative language: present vs. absent) × 3 (message stimuli) between-subjects factorial design. Main findings indicate that, although both sadness and message enjoyment were positively associated with information sharing intentions, messages that induced more enjoyment and less sadness were more likely to be shared. In addition, messages that violated less expectation were also more likely to be shared. Overall, this study suggests that those wanting to create a victim message that can be shared more widely should produce a message that elicits more sadness, uses less provocative language and is more enjoyable.
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In this bibliography, the researchers provide an introduction to the available evidence base of actions to promote vaccine literacy. The research team organized interventions to create a tool that can inform health communicators and practitioners seeking a resource focused on strategy and implementation design for actions that support vaccine literacy. This scoping bibliography is honed specifically to respond to the urgency of the current pandemic, when supporting and increasing vaccine literacy offers promise for achieving the critically needed high levels of vaccination. Over the course of the coming months and year, this bibliography will be a dynamic and "living" document hosted and maintained on vaccineliteracy.com.
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This study introduces the concept of value-expressive communication and examines its relationship with behavioral intent. Value-expressive communication is conceptualized as the verbal output of a value-expressive attitude. Value-expressive communication about exercise is examined in relationship to strength of religious faith, exercise attitudes, communication frequency, and intentions to exercise among a sample of self-identified Christians. The data indicate a significant interaction between value-expressive communication and communication frequency explains significant variance in exercise intentions. Interact to and exercise attitudes is significantly associated with intentions to exercise. Suggestions for using value-expressive communication in health communication research and practice are discussed.
Article
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Two experiments (N = 229 and N = 268) assessed the effect of aggressive risk communication about GMOs by a scientist on respondents’ perceptions of message quality and writer (the scientist communicator) likability. We also considered two factors from the communicator that may influence how individuals process aggressive messages – facial expression (study 1) and the gender (study 2). Both studies showed that aggressive communication has a negative effect on both perceived message quality and writer likability, which is explained by the level of negative expectancy violation individuals perceived. Moreover, study 1 showed that smiling appeared to be a negative influence on the outcomes and study 2 showed that gender did not influence how people perceive aggressive messages. The findings provided both scholarly and practical implications for science and risk communication.
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Research dealing with various aspects of* the theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1985, 1987) is reviewed, and some unresolved issues are discussed. In broad terms, the theory is found to be well supported by empirical evidence. Intentions to perform behaviors of different kinds can be predicted with high accuracy from attitudes toward the behavior, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control; and these intentions, together with perceptions of behavioral control, account for considerable variance in actual behavior. Attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control are shown to be related to appropriate sets of salient behavioral, normative, and control beliefs about the behavior, but the exact nature of these relations is still uncertain. Expectancy— value formulations are found to be only partly successful in dealing with these relations. Optimal rescaling of expectancy and value measures is offered as a means of dealing with measurement limitations. Finally, inclusion of past behavior in the prediction equation is shown to provide a means of testing the theory*s sufficiency, another issue that remains unresolved. The limited available evidence concerning this question shows that the theory is predicting behavior quite well in comparison to the ceiling imposed by behavioral reliability.
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State and local vaccination requirements for school entry are implemented to maintain high vaccination coverage and protect schoolchildren from vaccine-preventable diseases. Each year, to assess state and national vaccination coverage and exemption levels among kindergartners, CDC analyzes school vaccination data collected by federally funded state, local, and territorial immunization programs. This report describes vaccination coverage in 49 states and the District of Columbia (DC) and vaccination exemption rates in 46 states and DC for children enrolled in kindergarten during the 2013-14 school year. Median vaccination coverage was 94.7% for 2 doses of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine; 95.0% for varying local requirements for diphtheria, tetanus toxoid, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine; and 93.3% for 2 doses of varicella vaccine among those states with a 2-dose requirement. The median total exemption rate was 1.8%. High exemption levels and suboptimal vaccination coverage leave children vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases. Although vaccination coverage among kindergartners for the majority of reporting states was at or near the 95% national Healthy People 2020 targets for 4 doses of DTaP, 2 doses of MMR, and 2 doses of varicella vaccine, low vaccination coverage and high exemption levels can cluster within communities. Immunization programs might have access to school vaccination coverage and exemption rates at a local level for counties, school districts, or schools that can identify areas where children are more vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases. Health promotion efforts in these local areas can be used to help parents understand the risks for vaccine-preventable diseases and the protection that vaccinations provide to their children.
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A 2 (Threat: high vs. low) × 2 (Frame: gain vs. loss) × 2 (Choice: yes vs. no) × 2 (Behavior: prevention vs. detection) factorial design Web-based experiment (N = 814) was conducted to investigate the impact of threat to freedom, message frame, and behavioral choice as antecedents to psychological reactance. The intertwined model for reactance measure was replicated. Results showed that threat to freedom and the loss frame increased, and the gain frame and choice mitigated psychological reactance. The advantages of choice and the gain frame were most salient when threat was high.
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This study aimed to investigate the pragmatic function of politeness in a less-talked-about communicative act: advertising. Politeness theory being discussed by Leech (1983) and being analysed by the taxonomy of Brown and Levinson (1987), is known to be as one of the essential factors for a successful communication whose success is guaranteed by appropriate persuasive tools. The major focus of this study was to explore the politeness strategies adopted in English and Persian ads and finding their persuasive factors by comparing and contrasting them. To this end, a corpus of 100 Persian and English ads was collected. Their lines were first analysed to pinpoint the politeness strategy category and subcategory in both languages and then their frequencies were computed. Analysis of the results based on Brown and Levinson’s (1987) taxonomy of politeness functions indicated that English ads made more use of Positive politeness strategies while in Persian ads indirect Off-record strategies were more favoured. Exploring the findings according to Nisbett’s (2004) classification of Eastern and Western cultural system confirmed the collectivist in contrary to individualistic nature of culture in those countries respectively. Consequently, it was illustrated that the choices of psychological strategies made by advertisers to persuade customers were in line with their intended culture.
Article
Objective We evaluated the association between parents' beliefs about vaccines, their decision to delay or refuse vaccines for their children, and vaccination coverage of children at aged 24 months. Methods We used data from 11,206 parents of children aged 24–35 months at the time of the 2009 National Immunization Survey interview and determined their vaccination status at aged 24 months. Data included parents' reports of delay and/or refusal of vaccine doses, psychosocial factors suggested by the Health Belief Model, and provider-reported up-to-date vaccination status. Results In 2009, approximately 60.2% of parents with children aged 24–35 months neither delayed nor refused vaccines, 25.8% only delayed, 8.2% only refused, and 5.8% both delayed and refused vaccines. Compared with parents who neither delayed nor refused vaccines, parents who delayed and refused vaccines were significantly less likely to believe that vaccines are necessary to protect the health of children (70.1% vs. 96.2%), that their child might get a disease if they aren't vaccinated (71.0% vs. 90.0%), and that vaccines are safe (50.4% vs. 84.9%). Children of parents who delayed and refused also had significantly lower vaccination coverage for nine of the 10 recommended childhood vaccines including diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (65.3% vs. 85.2%), polio (76.9% vs. 93.8%), and measles-mumps-rubella (68.4% vs. 92.5%). After adjusting for sociodemographic differences, we found that parents who were less likely to agree that vaccines are necessary to protect the health of children, to believe that their child might get a disease if they aren't vaccinated, or to believe that vaccines are safe had significantly lower coverage for all 10 childhood vaccines. Conclusions Parents who delayed and refused vaccine doses were more likely to have vaccine safety concerns and perceive fewer benefits associated with vaccines. Guidelines published by the American Academy of Pediatrics may assist providers in responding to parents who may delay or refuse vaccines.
Article
One hundred-fifty male college students participated in a laboratory study of verbal aggression in which they competed against confederates (Cs) while assembling a formboard. The Ss or Cs verbally attacked one another while their opponent was assembling the formboard. Intense verbal attack by a C led to a higher outburst of aggression than did mild verbal attack or no prior attack by a C. Retaliatory verbal attack against a C who had previously attacked the S led to higher peak aggression than conditions in which the S was attacked by one C but displaced his attack to a second C.