Need for Cognition Moderates Responses to Framed Smoking-Cessation Messages1


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    Wayne T. Steward is now at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, University of California, San Francisco; Tamera R. Schneider is at Wright State University; Judith Pizarro is at University of California, Irvine; and Peter Salovey is at Yale University. This research was funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute (R01-CA68427). Manuscript preparation also was facilitated by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (P01-MH/DA 56826) and from the Ethel Donaghue Women's Health Investigator Program at Yale. The authors thank the following individuals and organizations for allowing us to collect data: Margaret Bower and the staff at Gateway Community College; Matie Demennato and the staff at the University of New Haven Health Fair; Roger Kinderman and the staff at Hammonassett Beach State Park; Julia Pahoda and the staff at the 56th annual North Haven Fair; John and Robin Vanacore and the staff at the 4th annual Train Collectors' Train Show held at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU); the Marketing Department and staff of the Dodge Dealers NASCAR 200 held at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut; and the staff of the SCSU Health Center. We also thank Steve Triay and Smith-Kline Beecham for supplying Nicorette® gum, and extend our gratitude to Andrea Anushko, Brian Detweiler-Bedell, Jerusha Detweiler-Bedell, David Pizarro, Melissa Ponce, Susan Rivers, and Janet Zullo for their assistance with data collection. Finally, we thank three anonymous reviewers for their comments.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Peter Salovey, Department of Psychology, Yale University, P.O. Box 208205, New Haven, CT 06520–8205. E-mail:


Smoking-cessation messages usually emphasize the costs of continuing to smoke (loss-framed). However, prospect theory suggests that messages that instead emphasize the benefits of quitting smoking (gain-framed) could be more effective than loss-framed messages because smoking cessation is likely viewed as a cancer-prevention behavior with a certain rather than a risky outcome. In this study, smokers at public events read brochures containing brief gain- or loss-framed smoking-cessation messages. The influence of framing was moderated by participants' need for cognition (NFC). Individuals lower in NFC had greater intention to quit after reading a gain-framed message than after reading a loss-framed message a finding consistent with our predictions whereas framing did not affect the persuasiveness of messages among people higher in NFC.