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Eye-tracking evidence shows that non-fit messaging impacts attention, attitudes and choice

Fridman, Ilona; Ubel, Peter A.; Higgins, Edward Tory

When patients have strong initial attitudes about a medical intervention, they might not be open to learning new information when choosing whether or not to receive the intervention. We aim to show that non-fit messaging (messages framed in a manner that is incongruent with recipients’ motivational orientation) can increase attention to the message content, thereby de-intensifying an initial attitude bias and reducing the influence of this bias on choice. In this study, 196 students received information about the pros and cons of a vaccine, framed in either a fit or non-fit manner with their motivational orientation. The results show that when information was presented in a non-fit (vs. fit) manner, the strength of participants’ initial attitude was reduced. An eye-tracking procedure indicated that participants read information more thoroughly (measured by the average length of fixation time while reading) in the non-fit condition versus fit condition. This average time of fixation mediated the effect of message framing on the strength of people’s attitudes. A reduction in attitude was associated with participants’ ability to recall the given information correctly and make a choice consistent with the provided information. Non-fit messaging increases individuals’ willingness to process information when individuals’ pre-existing attitude biases might otherwise cause them to make uninformed decisions.

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November 16, 2018