Desire or Disease? Framing Obesity to Influence Attributions of Responsibility and Policy Support

Joseph McGlynn, Matthew S. McGlone

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    8 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The way we describe health threats affects perceptions of severity and preferred solutions to reduce risk. Most people agree obesity is a problem, but differ in how they attribute responsibility for development and decline of the disease. We explored effects of message framing on attributions of responsibility and support for public obesity policies using a 3 × 2 factorial design. Participants read one of six versions of a health message describing the negative effects of obesity. Message frames influenced respondent attributions and their support for policies to reduce obesity. Those who read a message that assigned agency to the disease (e.g., Obesity causes health problems) endorsed genetics as the cause to a greater degree than those who read a semantically equivalent message that instead assigned agency to people (e.g., Obese people develop health problems). In contrast, assigning agency to people rather than to the disease prompted higher attributions of individual responsibility and support for public policies. Explicit message frames that directly connected responsibility for obesity to either individual or societal factors had no effect on respondent perceptions. Findings suggest explicit arguments may be less effective in shifting perceptions of health threats than arguments embedded in agentic message frames. The results demonstrate specific message features that influence how people attribute responsibility for the onset and solution of obesity.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)689-701
    Number of pages13
    JournalHealth Communication
    Volume34
    Issue number7
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jun 7 2019

    Fingerprint

    attribution
    Obesity
    Health
    Medical problems
    Disease
    responsibility
    health
    public policy
    Public Policy
    threat
    cause
    Genetics

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Health(social science)
    • Communication

    Cite this

    Desire or Disease? Framing Obesity to Influence Attributions of Responsibility and Policy Support. / McGlynn, Joseph; McGlone, Matthew S.

    In: Health Communication, Vol. 34, No. 7, 07.06.2019, p. 689-701.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    McGlynn, Joseph ; McGlone, Matthew S. / Desire or Disease? Framing Obesity to Influence Attributions of Responsibility and Policy Support. In: Health Communication. 2019 ; Vol. 34, No. 7. pp. 689-701.
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