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The structure and content of nutrition education messages

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The study was designed to investigate the response of people to nutritional messages written in different ways. For Experiment 1, positive and negative statements were constructed in which people were encouraged to «eat» or «avoid», with implicit or unstated alternative, or to «eat and avoid» or «avoid and eat». In total there were 64 statements; each was followed by a brief reason for the action and this was constant for each food. To avoid bias and ensure that the eight foods appeared on each questionnaire in a different order every time, the messages were set out in a Graeco-Latin square. Subjects were asked to rate the messages on a scale (1–7) for whether they were «reasonable», «practical» and «compelling». Additionally, for each message subjects were asked whether they already perform what is described in the message. The type of message construction appeared to be most important for the word «compelling». It appeared that messages with a single element (whether positive or negative) were less «compelling» than those with two elements (positive and negative). For Experiment 2, 64 messages were written in which the first part was written as a command with a negative aspect followed by a positive one («avoid and eat»). The reason given in support was classified in four ways and written in lay terms or using more technical words. It was concluded that messages including medical terms were most «compelling» and that all messages were reduced in score when incorporating «technical» terms.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: The Robert Gordon University, Queen's Road, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK

Publication date: 1996-04-01

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