Unhealthy diet due to excessive consumption of fat and sugar can lead to increased risks such as obesity (Kakoschke, Kemps, & Tiggemann, 2014). According to Pettigrew (2015), food marketers contribute significantly to pushing unhealthy products that meets the consumers’ desire for flavorful, easily available, and cheap food.
How to frame a message that it is most persuasive
Shen, Sheer, and Li (2015) summarize a central mechanism from two psychologies of persuasion models. The elaboration likelihood model (ELM) and the heuristic/systematic model (HSM) comprise of a dual pathway to persuasion that is (1) a central track of systematic message content analysis, and (2) peripheral track which influences one’s attitudes from the processing of contextual information. Coppola and Girandola (2016) combine the ELM model with an economically ruled view on message processing and the marking effect of using intensifying adverbs such as “very” or “extremely” to explain two different qualities of persuasion. Adverbial intensifiers, in the case of a small effort message decoding strategy, serve as the main cue for the message’s sender’s intention; in the case of high effort put into the message interpretation, the broader message beyond the adverbial markers would be considered by the receiver as well (Coppola & Girandola, 2016). Blankenship and Craig’s (2011) experiment showed an increase in persuasiveness when using powerful language in western settings.
A message gains persuasiveness when it fits an individual’s regulatory focus, e.g., by promoting healthy eating, or preventing unhealthy eating, the former being prompted by the presentation of a positive role model, the latter being stimulated by a narrative portraying a negative role model (Bosone, Martinez, & Kalampalikis, 2015). Similarly, Chen, Bell, and Taylor (2016) found that individuals’ identification with a narrative’s protagonist is greater when there is a similarity with the receiver (e.g., regarding age and sex) and that such similarity is positively influencing the perceived relevancy of the message.
Nan (2016) did extend the appraisal-tendency framework to prove that ‘fear’, compared to ‘anger’ or a neutral emotional state, creates increased open-mindedness to a communicated health issue. Nabi (2015) has found ‘guilt’ as negatively related to persuasiveness, possibly because of an effect of rejection due to ‘anger’ caused by a high level of guilt. ‘Humor’ did not directly impact persuasiveness, although it may stimulate attention to a message and therefore indirectly contribute to effective communication (Nabi, 2016).
As most people value their health anyway (Elbert & Dijkstra, 2015), Hample and Hample (2014) consider a strong evidence basis as a most important quality factor of an effective health message.
Health communicators should aim to strengthen consumers’ confidence related to the feasibility of the proposed healthy behavior (Han, Duhachek, & Agrawal, 2016), and healthy food should be marketed as pleasurable (Pettigrew, 2015).
How to avoid being persuaded by others
It is important to know how persuasion works and to be aware that environmental distraction narrows thoughtfulness (Dijkstra & van Asten, 2014). Josh, Ben, and James (2016) propose the concept of inoculation as a means for mindfulness toward misleading marketing messages from the food industry. An effective inoculation message consists of a preliminary warning, followed by a counter of competing arguments (Josh, Ben, & James, 2016).
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Bosone, L., Martinez, F., & Kalampalikis, N. (2015). When the model fits the frame: The impact of regulatory fit on efficacy appraisal and persuasion in health communication. Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(4), 526-539. doi:10.1177/0146167215571089
Chen, M., Bell, R., & Taylor, L. (2016). Narrator Point of View and Persuasion in Health Narratives: The Role of Protagonist–Reader Similarity, Identification, and Self-Referencing. Journal Of Health Communication, 21(8), 908-918. doi:10.1080/10810730.2016.1177147
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