Effects of visual images in health message framing

Open Access
Seo, Ki Won
Graduate Program:
Media Studies
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
Committee Members:
  • Fuyuan Shen, Thesis Advisor
  • health communication
  • visual images
  • message framing
  • fear
  • persuasion.
This study examined the effectiveness of visual images and message frames in communicating health risks. Specifically, an experiment (N = 95) was conducted to explore the effectiveness of message frames and message formats on persuasiveness (attitude toward the message, perceived effectiveness, and behavioral intention), fear, and cognitive processing by utilizing a 2 (message frames: gain vs. loss) × 2 (message formats: verbal vs. visual) × 2 (health issues: dental flossing vs. sunscreen use) mixed factorial design. Results indicate that significant message frames × message formats interaction effects on fear and persuasiveness were found with the negative visual conditions generating more fear and persuasiveness. The effects of the message formats on cognitive processing (systematic or heuristic) were not significant. Mediation tests showed that fear mediated the relationship between message format and persuasion. These results suggest that increased fear as generated by negative visual images led to more persuasion rather than increased processing of the messages. Implications and limitations of this study, and the directions for future study were discussed.