Saturday, April 22, 2006

Paradox of Health Messages

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- It has been an enjoyable time at the Kentucky Conference on Health Communication. During an excellent talk by my OSU colleague, Dr. Michael Slater, something he said caused me to pause and return to a thought I have had many times before: most campaigns attempting to alter health behavior are unlike most other campaigns.

Almost all advertising attempts to get you to do something. Most health messages try to get you to not do something. These are fundamentally different, of course, and surely several hundred people have already acknowledged this fact in print.

However, I believe the notion bodes well for my research family tree. While at this conference, I was part of a panel organized by Dr. Annie Lang (my Ph.D. advisor). The panel centered around measuring motivational activation. That is, we are working toward measuring how things appeal to people and how things drive people away. We believe there are two systems, are we study them both every day.

This dual system approach is, I believe, ideal for examining advertising and health messages. This approach will allow us to tease out -- theoretically -- where the advertising approach should inform health communication and where they should be quite opposite.

I enjoy days where the future looks this bright.


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