We Took Top Paper at the D.C. Health Comm Conference!

Gain frames are where it’s at! The paper we submitted to the D.C. Health Communication (DCHC) Conference – “Loss and Gain-Framing and Psychological Reactance: Impacts on Intentions to Exercise” – won the conference’s Overall Top Paper award.

I wrote the paper along with Dr. Jakob Jensen and coauthors Courtney Scherr, Kaylee Crossley, Katheryn Christy and Melinda Krakow (aka: “Team Reactance” in our lab). I’ll present it at the DCHC conference in Fairfax, Virginia, at the end of April 2017. This year’s conference theme: “Patient-Centered Health Communication.”

Here’s the gist of our findings: Exercise habits are difficult to change, but how recommendations are framed – as the benefits of performing a behavior or the drawbacks of not doing so – can make a difference. For this study, we examined loss/gain framing and psychological reactance – two important concepts in message persuasion – in the context of exercise promotion.

We found that gain frames elicited less threat to freedom, which triggered a sequential chain of decreased reactance, increased attitudes, and increased intentions to exercise. In short, gain-framed exercise messages were more effective.

Update: here’s a quick interview of me describing our findings:

In related news, I wrote the blurb in the May 2017 issue of Men’s Health magazine about how to strengthen your argument with gain-framing (p. 109). Check it out. ;)

Reactance is also a fascinating area of study in health behavior and health comm (maybe even cooler than framing?) and it’s one of our main research lines in the HCAT lab. Stay tuned for more.


I’m a health writer and graduate student. I'm interested in the wily side of health – self sabotage, persuasion, and why health campaigns so often manage to inadvertently piss people off.

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