Background: Traditionally most health education materials are written in an expository non-narrative format. Scholars have argued that the effectiveness of materials may increase when these texts are replaced by narrative texts, and that the non-narrative texts should be replaced by narrative texts. However, no previous studies have tested these claims in the context of school health education for low educated adolescents. This study aims to do so for an existing preventive health education intervention about alcohol for low educated adolescents. Based on the empirical findings of previous studies, it is expected that the claims about narratives being more effective than non-narrative texts are not true for effects on knowledge. Instead non-narrative texts are expected to have a stronger impact on this outcome variable. For attitude towards alcohol and intention to drink alcohol the claims are expected to be true, because participants are expected to be less aware of the persuasive intent of the narrative texts, which would make them less resistant. As a result, narrative texts are expected to have a stronger effect on attitude and intention.
Methods: This study compares the effects on knowledge, attitude towards alcohol, and intention to drink alcohol of both information formats in a two-condition (non-narrative vs. narrative information) experiment with repeated measures (pre-measurement, immediate post-measurement, and delayed post-measurement). The experiment was conducted amongst 296 students of the two lowest levels of the Dutch secondary education system.
Results: The results showed immediate effects on knowledge and attitude towards alcohol, which did not differ between conditions and school levels. These effects did not persist over time. There were no effects on intention to drink alcohol.
Conclusion: It is concluded non-narrative and narrative information are equally effective in the context of school health education, suggesting the claims that scholars have made about the superior effects of narrative texts are not true. Given the fact that narrative texts are more expensive to develop, policy makers may not be advised to prefer these types of texts over the traditionally used non-narrative texts.
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