Getting Emotional about Health

Getting Emotional about Health

By
Nidhi Agrawal, Geeta Menon, Jennifer Aaker
Journal of Marketing Research.
2007, Vol. 44, Pages 100-113

The consequences of illness have two crucial types of stakes: for the self and for the family. Therefore, this research examines the effectiveness of health messages that present consequences for the self or for the family, focusing specifically on the dual role of emotions in serving these stakes as a provider of resources and information. The authors theorize that (1) the valence dimension of discrete emotions influences resources, thus fostering or hindering the processing of aversive health information, whereas (2) the self-/other-relatedness dimension of discrete emotions provides information that interacts with the focal referent in the message (self or family) to determine compatibility. In Experiments 1–3, the authors demonstrate that when people are primed with a positive emotion (e.g., happiness, peacefulness), the compatibility between the referent and the discrete emotion fosters the processing of health information. When the primed emotion is negative (e.g., sadness, agitation), however, compatibility hinders processing of the message. In Experiment 4, the authors track emotions before and after exposure to a health message to demonstrate that the observed effect occurs because of an increase in the negative emotional state in compatible situations when people process disease-related information. The authors conclude by discussing the implications of the findings for increasing the effectiveness of health-related messages.