Measuring resistance towards health messages

  • M. Fransen
  • H. Hendriks
  • S. Mollen
  • B. van den Putte


Background A major challenge that health advocates face when promoting health is resistance towards their message. Audiences often feel threatened when they encounter health messages and as a result they may try to resist them. Previous literature suggested different ways to counter this resistance but research on the type of strategies that audiences’ actually use to resist health messages is lacking. This study fills this gap by 1) presenting an overview of different resistance strategies and 2) examining which of these strategies are used by audiences. Methods Participants in this study (N=202) were exposed to a video about the dangers of binge drinking (fear vs. disgust vs. humour vs. informational), after which they were put into pairs to have a short dyad. These dyads were recorded by camera - for which consent was given afterwards – and transcribed. Based on the literature on resistance strategies, we developed a codebook to analyse the transcriptions on the presence of resistance strategies. Findings The results demonstrate that audiences indeed resist health messages and often use multiple strategies. The most commonly used strategies were message derogation, denial (personal risk), and counter arguing. Moreover, the type of emotional frame used in the persuasive message influences whether and how participants resist the message. Discussion The present study resulted in a codebook that can be used to measure the use of resistance strategies. Knowledge on the kind of resistance strategies that audiences adopt when confronted with health messages may assists in designing more effective communication.
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