The interaction of message frames and reference points in prosocial persuasive appeals



This research seeks to reconcile inconsistent results obtained in prior framing research in prosocial persuasion contexts by proposing that the reference point (self or self-other) invoked in a persuasive appeal moderates the impact of a particular message frame (positive or negative) on attitudes and behavioral intentions. Two experiments were conducted in which frame and reference point were manipulated in persuasive messages promoting either recycling or prevention of HPV, a sexually transmitted disease. The results indicate that in persuasive social contexts, negative frames may be most persuasive with self-referencing appeals while positive frames work best when benefits to self as well as others are emphasized. This suggests that developers of prosocial communications should be cognizant of both the message frame and the reference point invoked in these messages in order to have maximum persuasion impact. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.