The Effectiveness of Visual and Text Frames in Health Communication Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Sontag, Jennah
    • Affiliation: Hussman School of Journalism and Media, Mass Communication Graduate Program
  • Text and visual frames in health-related messages can influence the emotions and perceptions of viewers based on what is emphasized in these two frames, which can determine whether viewers will avoid or heed the message. Two separate experimental studies investigated the effectiveness of text and visual frames in depression messages. Study 1 tested three specific visual frames: suffering, treatment, and recovery. Study 2 tested the interaction of gain and loss text frames and positive (i.e. recovery) and negative (i.e. suffering) visual frames. In both studies, participants were randomly assigned to message conditions; Study 1’s suffering, treatment, and recovery message conditions, and Study 2’s gain text with positive visual frame, gain text with negative visual frame, loss text with positive visual frame, and loss text with negative visual frame conditions. Participants viewed three messages each, then answered questions pertaining to emotion, stigma, identity, perceived behavioral attainment, aspiration, and other behavior predictors. The recovery/positive visual frames elicited positive emotion and increased viewers’ aspiration to be like the exemplars depicted in the messages significantly (p<.001) more than the treatment and suffering/negative visual frames. Depictions of recovery imply that those who seek help will improve their lifestyle; therefore, viewers who aspire to be like the individuals depicted are more likely to seek help in order to attain the same positive experiences as those depicted. Suffering/negative visual frames elicited significantly greater negative emotion and decreased aspiration (p<.001). A path analysis also revealed that positive emotion mediated the relationship between recovery/positive visual frames and aspiration. There were no significant differences in outcomes for text frames except for emotion; gain text frames elicited significantly greater (p<.001) positive emotion, while loss text frames elicited negative emotion (p<.001). Based on these findings, it is suggested that message designers consider how negatively framed visuals may deter individuals from heeding the message, while using exemplars that inspire viewers through recovery-related depictions may more effectively motivate individuals to seek help when they experience depressive symptoms. Implications beyond the context of depression are discussed, along with study limitations and suggestions for future research.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Comello, Nori
  • Lazard, Allison
  • Noar, Seth
  • Chapman, Mimi
  • Clayton, Russell
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

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