Impact of Behavioral Intention on Effectiveness of Message Features Evidence From the Family Sun Safety Project


  • This project was supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute (CA62968; David Buller, PI) and by a National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia Traveling Fellowship to Ron Borland. The authors thank the Amphitheater, Catalina Foothills, Flowing Wells, and Tucson Unified school districts and the teachers, parents, and students from Bloom, Centennial, Coronado, Gale, Shumaker, Sunrise, and Walker elementary schools.

Dr. David Buller, AMC Cancer Research Center, 1600 Pierce Street, Denver, CO 80214.


The effectiveness of messages with different logical styles might change, regardless of factual content, depending on receiver intent to practice prevention. Predictions based on reactance theory, postdecisional regret, and language expectancy theory were tested in a study altering logical style (inductive versus deductive) and language intensity in messages to parents advocating family sun safety. A prediction that deductively formatted messages would be inferior for parents not intending to act was confirmed in analyses of their reported sun protection, supporting a reactance theory explanation. For parents with mixed intentions to increase protection for themselves or their children, deductive messages were most effective, consistent with postdecisional regret processes. High language intensity enhanced both effects. Reactance effects among nonintenders completely disappeared in a follow-up survey, but language intensity effects remained. The influence of message features varies by stage of progression to action, which has practical implications for tailoring health communication to individual needs.