BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The behavior of consumers who are faced with making decisions about their health is not significantly influenced by the way health messages are worded or framed, according to a large, new study by researchers at the University at Buffalo and other institutions.
The results of the study, published today (Dec. 7) in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, contradict the premise of the framing effect on making health decisions. The framing effect is supported by the Prospect theory, for which Princeton University psychologist Daniel Kahneman was awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize for economics and which describes decisions between alternatives that involve risk.
The systematic review synthesized data from 35 studies of 16,342 participants.
"We found that, in general, framing may have little, if any, effect on health consumers' behavior," says Elie A. Akl, MD, PhD, lead author and assistant professor of medicine, family medicine and social and preventive medicine at UB's School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and School of Public Health and Health Professions. Akl also holds a part-time appointment in the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McMaster University.
The study was designed to systematically review all empirical evidence about how the framing effect influences health consumers.
"There is a widely held belief in the medical and public health communities that the framing of health messages can affect the behaviors of health-care consumers," Akl explains. "If true, then clinical and public health practitioners could develop health messages that are framed in ways that would positively affect the health behaviors of consumers. Framing would provide clinical and public health practice with an easy to use, inexpensive tool that could actually improve public health."
But the results didn't show any such effect. The study found that such framing has "little if any consistent effect on beha
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