PhD defense Maria Altendorf – It’s not what you say but how you say it

Published on April 14 2020 – Research has pointed towards the potential to not only tailor health interventions in the sense of what information is provided (content-tailoring), but also in terms of how information is communicated (message frame-tailoring) to increase successful behaviour change in online health interventions. Yet, effect sizes of content-tailored interventions remain small. Therefore, Maria Altendorf investigated in her PhD thesis, which she will defend on April 16th whether message frame-tailoring can potentially increase intervention effectiveness. Now, a scientific article describing the effectiveness of message frame-tailoring is published.The aim of Maria’s PhD thesis was to develop and explore novel approach of message frame-tailoring in an online computer-tailored intervention. In this intervention, two strategies were combined to provide tailored health advice to people. Firstly, it was considered what information was presented (i.e., content-tailoring) to people. Secondly, the way how messages are presented was adapted to one’s communication preference (i.e., message frame-tailoring). The recently published article describes Maria’s main study form her dissertation “It’s not what you say but how you say it”. In a randomised controlled trial (N = 273; 38.8% female), message frame-tailoring based on the individual need for autonomy in isolation and in addition to content-tailoring was tested for its effectiveness on smoking cessation. Findings confirmed the positive effect of content-tailoring on smoking cessation 1-month follow-up, as found in previous research. However, message frame-tailoring did not significantly increase abstinence rates, neither alone nor in combination with content-tailoring. Notably, smokers with a higher need for autonomy more frequently quit smoking compared to their lower need for autonomy peers, regardless of the message frame provided with. Also, smokers with a higher need for autonomy, perceived messages as more relevant and had a higher self-determined motivation to quit, more positive attitudes towards quitting and higher self-efficacy beliefs than smokers with a lower need for autonomy. In sum, in this study, smokers with a higher need for autonomy benefit more from online computer-tailored smoking cessation advice that is frame-tailored and content-tailored compared to smokers with a lower need for autonomy.

The study was funded by the Dutch Cancer Society (grant number 2015-7913).

Read more? Find the full article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.