Is the glas half full or half empty? Framing of dental health affects choices and behaviour.

Published on April 16 2019 – Good dental health is important and can be obtained by regular tooth brushing, as well as the use of mouth rinse. One way to stimulate people to use mouth rinse is the frame the consequences of (not) using mouth rinse: does it prevent, or detect dental health problems? Gert-Jan de Bruijn investigated how the framing of these consequences affects the choices that people make, and if this depends on the extent to which people are willing to take or avoid risk.

In an online experiment, some 600 participants were randomly exposed to one of four messages: these messages emphasized either the positive outcomes of using mouth rinse (using mouth rinse increases your chance for cavities, or the negative outcomes of not using mouth rinse (not using mouth rinse increases your chance for cavities). Half of the participants was further told that mouth rinse serves to prevent dental health problems, and one half was told mouth rinse would detect dental health problems. Finally, participants were primed to be either risk-seeking or risk-avoidant.

Gert-Jan investigated the effects of these manipulations on product choice (which type of mouth rinse was chosen) immediately after the experiment, as well as the use of mouth rinse in the two weeks after the experiment. Results showed that people, after reading information on the positive consequences of mouth rinse use, were more likely to select mouth rinse products that served to prevent dental health problems, rather than detect these. Further, people who read the negative consequences of not using mouth rinse used mouth rinse more often in the two weeks after the experiment, particularly if these people were primed to take risks.

Read more? De Bruijn, G. J. (2019). To frame or not to frame? Effects of message framing and risk priming on mouth rinse use and intention in an adult population-based sample. J Behav Med, 42(2), 300-314.

Click here for the article.