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An experimental test of the relationship between voice intonation and persuasion in the domain of health

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Objective : In the process of behaviour change, intonation of speech is an important aspect that may influence persuasion when auditory messages are used. In two experiments, we tested to what extent different levels of intonation are related to persuasion and whether for some recipients the threat posed by the message information might become too strong to face.

Design : In Study 1, 130 respondents listened to a health message with either a low, moderate or high level of intonation. In Study 2 (N = 143), the same manipulations of intonation were applied but half of the respondents were affirmed before they listened to the persuasive message. Intention to increase fruit and vegetable intake was used as a dependent variable.

Results : Both studies showed that high intonation led to a significant drop in intention among respondents who perceived their own health as good. After self-affirmation, persuasion was increased.

Conclusion : A high level of intonation seems to induce self-regulatory defences in people who do not see the necessity to change their health behaviour, whereas people with poor perceived health might perceive potential to change. The use of a normal level of intonation in auditory health messages is recommended.
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Keywords: fruit and vegetable consumption; persuasion; self-affirmation; speech

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Social Psychology, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands

Publication date: September 2, 2014

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