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The Functions of Affect in Health Communications and in the Construction of Health Preferences


Ellen Peters; e-mail:


We examine potential roles of 4 functions of affect in health communication and the construction of health preferences. The roles of these 4 functions (affect as information, as a spotlight, as a motivator, and as common currency) are illustrated in the area of cancer screening and treatment decision making. We demonstrate that experienced affect influences information processes, judgments, and decisions. We relate the functions to a self-regulation approach and examine factors that may influence the weight of cognitive versus affective processing of information. Affect’s role in health communication is likely to be nuanced, and it deserves careful empirical study of its effects on patients’ well-being.