This study argues that behavioral recommendations in health news function as cues to action. A proposed self-oriented model seeks to explore the impacts of behavioral recommendations in health research news as cues to action through their influences on self-relevancy and self-efficacy. A content analysis (Study 1) first establishes that health research news commonly features behavioral recommendations. A message experiment (Study 2) then explores the utility of behavioral recommendations as cues to action by demonstrating a self-relevancy effect: Health research news with, as opposed to without, behavioral recommendations increases the self-relevancy of advocated health behaviors, which then improve people’s attitudes toward and intentions to adopt those behaviors. A second message experiment (Study 3) tests whether varying presentations of behavioral recommendations alter their effectiveness as cues to action and thus people’s behavioral intentions through a dual effect process. In addition to the previously demonstrated self-relevancy effect, this experiment shows that concrete, as opposed to abstract, behavioral recommendations trigger a self-efficacy effect, increasing perceived self-efficacy and further improving behavioral intentions.
Journal of Health Communication, Vol.21, No.8, pp.954-968