Identifying autonomy-supportive message frames in online health communication


  • E. Smit
  • H. de Vries


Background To date, scholars have mainly focused on tailoring the content of online health communication, yet effect sizes remain small. To increase its public health impact, testing strategies that might increase the effectiveness of online computer-tailoring is a priority. The aim of this study is to explore the potential of message frame tailoring, by identifying the most autonomy-supportive message frame within an online health communication intervention aimed at the promotion of vegetable intake. Methods Two strategies will be studied that have been found to increase perceived autonomy-support in the face-to-face setting, i.e. offering choice and using non-controlling language. A 2 (choice vs. no choice) x 2 (non- controlling vs. controlling language) experiment will be conducted. Participants (N=492) will be recruited via a research panel and will be randomly assigned to one of the conditions. Measurements will occur before (T0; demographics, present behaviour) and directly post-intervention (T1; perceived autonomy-support). Expected results It is hypothesized that both offering choice and using non-controlling language increase perceived autonomy-support, but that the combination is most effective. Current stage of work Currently, intervention materials have been adjusted for use in each of the four conditions. Next steps will entail pre-testing among experts and the target population, finalizing intervention materials and data collection (expected in April-May 2017). Discussion The results from this study will contribute to the increased effectiveness of online computer-tailored health communication, a low-cost health behaviour change strategy. As the Internet ensures a great reach, this increased effectiveness will improve its impact on public health.





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