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Pennsylvania State University


Health communication scholars are charged with seeking ways to convey health information in credible and reliable ways for audiences. In the context of osteoporosis, the challenge becomes how to communicate risk and prevention to young women, as prevention behaviors started early in life can help decrease osteoporosis diagnosis later in life. Evidence has been shown to be one message tool that can increase comprehension of information presented and influence outcomes. Previous research has found that statistical evidence to be associated with systematic processing, or careful attention to messages, whereas narrative evidence evokes heuristic processing, or a reliance on heuristics. Yet, the benefits of narratives, and the sharing and telling of experiences has been shown to aid comprehension and behaviors for a variety of health contexts. Specifically, that the emotions conveyed and aroused after reading a narrative can influence understanding, and message effectiveness. Guided by the Heuristic-Systematic Model (HSM), this study examined outcomes associated with the use of different narrative evidence types and expressions of emotion within narrative evidence for arousal of discrete emotions, comprehension, dominant cognitions, heuristic and systematic processing, perceived evidence quality, perceived message effectiveness, behavioral intentions, and the osteoporosis prevention behaviors of calcium and vitamin D consumption. Formative research led to the creation of narrative evidence and selection of positive and negative emotions expressed. A 4x3 between subjects pretest-post-test with follow-up 24-hour dietary recall was used to test the outcomes of the narrative evidence types. Results indicated that both heuristic and systematic processing of narrative evidence does simultaneously occur for osteoporosis content, and positive relationships between comprehension, judgments of evidence quality and perceptions of message effectiveness predict behavioral intentions towards osteoporosis prevention. Specifically, the emotions of fear and hope serve as heuristics for the processing of osteoporosis narrative evidence. No significant differences emerged for narrative evidence type and the behaviors of calcium and vitamin D, however, results imply that different message strategies are needed for these behaviors. Implications of these findings for osteoporosis health messages are discussed.

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