Understanding the effects of message framing on physical activity action planning: A preliminary look at the role of risk perception as a moderator


Action planning (AP) is a strategy for increasing physical activity. Persuasive messages could be useful in promoting AP and optimally framed messages could maximize effectiveness. Research suggests that message framing (i.e., presenting messages either in terms of benefits or costs associated with the behaviour), may be only minimally effective in promoting AP. However, researchers have overlooked the possible moderating role of individuals' risk perceptions regarding AP. The purpose of this study was to examine risk perception as a moderator of the effect of framed messages on AP. Preliminary data were gathered online from 88 inactive adults who read either a gain- or loss-framed AP message. Data were collected regarding perceived risks of AP (pre-message) and AP (post-message). Logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine perceived risk of AP as a moderator of framed messaging effects on AP. A medium to large interaction effect between the message frame and risk perception (emotional risk) approached significance [OR = 3.442, 95% confidence intervals (CI): 0.927, 12.778]. Post hoc analyses indicated that individuals with greater emotional risk perceptions (e.g., worried they could not stick to their plan) were 1.95 (95% CI: 0.718, 5.294] times more likely to AP when presented a gain-framed message. Individuals presented with the loss-framed message decreased their likelihood of AP when their emotional risk increased [OR = 0.563, 95% CI: 0.238, 1.331]. This study provides preliminary evidence that perceived risk may moderate the effect of framed messages on AP. Data are being collected from a larger sample to further explore this hypothesis.