Employing Psychologically Tailored Messages to Increase Mammography Use
Peter Salovey, Ph.D.,Professor of Psychology and Epidemiology and Public Health
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among American women. Although mammography is generally regarded as the most effective tool for detecting breast cancer early and preventing cancer death, many women do not obtain regular mammograms. To motivate women to use routine mammography screening, more effective public health messages are needed. Dr. Salovey’s work focuses on the persuasiveness of health messages, and has shown that a standardized health message does not generate the same response in every listener. In the current work, he examined the type of health messages that encourage women to obtain mammography.
Highlighted Study Findings
Dr. Salovey found that recommendations about health behaviors, such as mammography, are most effective in changing behavior when customized to an individual’s preferred way of gaining new information. Dr. Salovey and his research team examined the persuasiveness of health messages, specifically “gain-frame” (e.g., if you get a mammogram, you will live to see your grandchildren) versus “loss-frame” (e.g., if you do not get a mammogram, you will not live to see your grandchildren) health messages, when they are matched to individuals’ information-processing styles, specifically one’s health locus of control (i.e., willingness to attribute the responsibility for maintaining good health to self or to health professionals). Overall, results demonstrated that women who received messages consistent with their health locus of control information –processing style, they were more likely to obtain a mammogram as assessed at 6 and 12 month follow-up than women who received messages that were not consistent with their health locus of control information –processing style. These findings have been incorporated into message framing for mammography, and used in a variety of health promotion messages.