Background: Health-related messages, framed in terms of gains or losses, can impact decision-making differently across the adult life span. The focus of this study was on the emotional responses evoked by such framing and their relationship to perceived effectiveness, as mechanisms that may underpin how health messages impact health decisions. Methods: A web-based study using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform was conducted with a sample of 132 younger adults and 106 older adults. Participants were asked to read exercise-related messages framed in terms of gains or losses, and to rate each message for affect and effectiveness. Results: Relative to younger adults, older adults showed less negative reactions to loss-framed messages and to messages that described undesirable outcomes. Importantly, younger and older adults differentially used affective cues to gauge effectiveness of framed messages: for gain-framed messages (which tended to evoke positive affect), older adults found messages that made them feel good to be more effective; but for loss-framed messages (which tend to evoke negative affect), younger adults found messages that made them feel bad to be more effective. Conclusions: These results suggest that in processing health messages, older adults may be more motivated by positive affect, while younger adults may be more motivated by negative affect.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Geriatrics and Gerontology