Research Article: Quick question or intensive inquiry: The role of message elaboration in the effectiveness of self-persuasive anti-alcohol posters

Date Published: January 24, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Jeroen G. B. Loman, Sarah A. de Vries, Niels Kukken, Rick B. van Baaren, Moniek Buijzen, Barbara C. N. Müller, Adrian Meule.


Self-persuasion (i.e., generating your own arguments) is often more persuasive than direct persuasion (i.e., being provided with arguments), even when the technique is applied in media messages by framing the message as a question. It is unclear, however, if these messages are more persuasive when viewed for a long period to allow more elaboration about the message, or for a short period to reduce elaboration. In the current experiment, this is addressed by examining whether anti-alcohol posters framed as a statement (direct persuasion) or an open-ended question (self-persuasion) are more effective to reduce alcohol consumption under conditions of short- or long message exposure, compared to a control condition (no poster). Additionally, the potentially moderating roles of self-perceived alcohol identity and self-esteem on both types of persuasion are examined. Participants (N = 149) were exposed to a self-persuasion or direct persuasion anti-alcohol poster, either briefly before or continuously during a bogus beer taste task. The amount of alcohol consumed was the covert dependent variable. Contrary to expectations, both posters failed to affect alcohol consumption, regardless of exposure length. No moderation effects for self-perceived alcohol identity and self-esteem of the participants were found. Possible explanations are discussed.

Partial Text

Alcohol consumption is one of the major avoidable risk factors contributing to global disease and death [1–3]. Despite numerous media interventions aiming to reduce consumption, in the majority of countries drinking levels remain stable or continue to rise [4,5]. Recent literature investigating the effectiveness of anti-alcohol media messages to change antecedents of drinking or actual alcohol consumption behavior yielded mixed results. Some research found that anti-alcohol media messages were effective in reducing the urge to drink [6] or intentions to binge drink [7]. Other studies found no differences in intentions to drink after viewing anti-alcohol advertising versus alcohol advertising [8], and no differences in actual consumption after viewing anti-alcohol posters compared to no persuasion controls [9]. Again other studies have found that anti-alcohol media messages resulted in less negative attitudes towards alcohol [10], or even led to greater alcohol consumption [11].

The primary aim of the current experiment was to test the effectiveness of anti-alcohol posters framed as statements (direct persuasion) or open-ended questions (self-persuasion) to reduce alcohol consumption in a beer taste test, under conditions of short- (low message elaboration) or long (high message elaboration) message exposure, compared to a control condition without a poster. Results indicated that both posters failed to affect alcohol consumption in a beer taste test, regardless of exposure length, and that this was independent of participant’s self-perceived alcohol identity and self-esteem.




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