Visuals Work in Discouraging Indoor Tanning

Pictorial messages produce greater negative reactions; more effective than text-only messages
Pictorial messages produce greater negative reactions; more effective than text-only messages

HealthDay News — Pictorial messages discouraging indoor tanning produce greater negative emotional reactions than text-only messages, according to a study published online recently in the Journal of Health Communication.

Jennah M. Sontag, and Seth M. Noar, PhD, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, randomized 568 undergraduate females to either 1 of 3 message conditions visually depicting health effects, appearance damage, or immediate risks, or to a text-only control. The authors sought to assess the potential effectiveness of pictorial indoor tanning messages. Participants viewed 3 messages within their condition and, after exposure to the message, answered questions. 

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The researchers found that pictorial messages produced greater negative emotional reactions compared with the text-only condition. Pictorial messages were also perceived as more effective than text-only messages. However, compared with pictorial messages, text-only messages were significantly more believable. Several differences were seen among the pictorial conditions and among messages within the pictorial conditions.

"We conclude that messages discouraging indoor tanning should use pictorial messages illustrating the negative health and appearance damaging effects of indoor tanning, focusing on particular health and appearance consequences," the authors write. "Additional research is needed to guide the selection of images that are believable and will most discourage indoor tanning behavior."

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