I must not! Identifying the most autonomy-supportive message frame for online computer-tailored health communication

  • M. Altendorf
  • E. Smit
  • J. van Weert
  • C. Hoving


Online tailored health communication can be a (cost-)effective strategy to induce behaviour change. To date, this type of health communication has been mainly focused on content-tailoring, but effects remain small. Tailoring message frames, in addition to tailoring message content, is an innovative approach to be tested. Message frame tailoring based on the need for autonomy, a theoretical construct derived from Self-Determination Theory, may be especially promising to maximise impacts of online health communication. This study aims to identify the most autonomy-supportive message frame in the context of an online alcohol reduction intervention by offering content-tailored feedback in autonomy-supportive (i.e. offering choice and non-controlling language) versus controlling (i.e. offering no choice and controlling language) message frames. A 2(non-controlling language vs. controlling language) x 2(choice vs. no choice) online experiment will be conducted. To significantly detect small effects (effect size f=.15), while considering 20% attrition over the intervention period, at least 615 participants will be recruited via an online panel. Primary outcome measure is perceived autonomy-support, which will be measured with the Virtual Climate Care Questionnaire. Analysis will be conducted using ANOVA with Turkey’s post-hoc comparisons. Data collection takes place in April 2017 and results will be presented at the conference. We expect main effects for the use of non-controlling language and offering choice on perceived autonomy-support. Further, we hypothesise that there are interaction effects with individuals’ need for autonomy. This project is one of the first to test the idea of message frame tailoring within the context of online health communication.