Objectives: Although research has shown that whether people talk about health issues influences health campaign effects, no evidence exists on whether conversational valence fulfils a mediating role within health campaign effects. In the context of alcohol consumption, this two-wave experimental research studies the effects of exposure to an anti-alcohol message on conversational valence about alcohol. Further, it investigates whether valence subsequently affects alcohol consumption intentions.
Design: Eighty-four undergraduate students, in dyads, were randomly assigned to one of two conditions (anti-alcohol message versus no alcohol message exposure).
Methods: A baseline measure of the intention to refrain from binge drinking was assessed in advance. Two weeks later, half of the participants were exposed to an anti-alcohol message, after which all pairs engaged in a conversation about alcohol and binge drinking followed by an assessment of conversational valence and again the intention to refrain from binge drinking.
Results: An indirect effect of health message exposure on the intention to refrain from binge drinking through conversational valence was revealed. When participants viewed an anti-alcohol message they reported significantly more negative conversations about alcohol. Subsequently, a more negative conversational valence about alcohol increased the intention to refrain from binge drinking.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that conversational valence is relevant for health campaign effects. By demonstrating that health messages can influence this valence, important implications arise in terms of health promotion. Future research should focus on how to design effective health campaigns that are able to guide conversational valence in the desired direction.
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