Exploring the interplay between message format, personal-relevance &need for cognition on physical activity message processing

  • C. Short
  • M. Dry
  • A. Skuse
  • P. Quester
  • A. Vincent
  • A. Rebar
  • C. vandelanotte
  • M. Duncan
  • R. Crutzen


Background: Need for cognition (NFC) and personal relevance influence information processing. Messages are more effective when they are tailored to increase relevance and it may be that tailoring to increase processing style suitability (based on NFC) enhances efficacy further. However, dual processing models like the Elaboration Likelihood Model would suggest that this may be futile. This study investigates the impact of adapting physical activity messages based on NFC, and explores the interplay between message format, NFC, personal relevance and message efficacy. Methods: A lab-based two group randomized trial was conducted. Participants (n = 50) were inactive adults (74% female, M age = 24) randomly exposed to messages optimised for high or low NFC. Attention was assessed as gaze duration in areas of interest (AOI) and changes in Theory of Planned Behaviour constructs were assessed via self-report. Analyses were conducted using linear regression. Findings. There was no interaction between group and NFC on AOI or group and relevance on AOI (all p > 0.05). A main effect of relevance on AOI was observed, with a 2% increase of time in AOI per unit increase in relevance (p = 0.04). A similar pattern of results was observed for all Theory of Planned Behaviour related outcomes (all p <0.05). Exploratory analyses suggest that highly relevant messages may have a greater impact on behaviour change determinants for people with high NFC. Discussion: Matching physical activity messages based on NFC may not increase intervention efficacy. Messages targeting individuals with low NFC may not require tailoring.
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