During one of the earliest flu seasons, researchers share subtle strategy for promoting vaccination

(Medical Xpress)— With the nation experiencing one of the earliest flu seasons since the winter of 2003, Matthew McGlone – an associate professor of advertising in The University of Texas at Austin's College of Communication – has discovered a subtle linguistic strategy for promoting vaccination.

The strategy is to assign the causality or "agency" for transmission to the flu rather than to people. In other words, instead of telling people that they are at risk of contracting the flu, tell people that the flu is likely to infect them.

"Framing flu transmission in terms of virus agency is the way to go," McGlone said. "If focused more on virus agency, I think more people would be convinced to get flu vaccines."

Co-authored by McGlone, University of California at Davis Professor Robert Bell and College of Communication graduate students Joseph McGlynn and Sarah Zaitchik, the study appears in the December 2012 edition of the Journal of .

The research group conducted the study in October 2009 during the H1N1 scare. Analyses were based on 222 undergraduate students who read one of four fact sheets with information adapted from the H1N1 website.

Researchers created four versions of fact sheets by manipulating two characteristics: agency assignment language (human agency versus virus agency) and virus image (a literal image of the virus versus an image portraying the flu as a creature with a mouth and sharp teeth).

Participants who read a fact sheet that assigned agency to the flu (e.g., H1N2 may infect millions) felt more fearful of the virus and perceived it as more severe. When participants viewed a fact sheet that assigned agency to the flu and included a literal image of the virus, they felt more susceptible to the .

In contrast, participants who read a fact sheet that assigned agency to people (e.g., Millions may contract H1N1) viewed the virus not as a combatant but as a consequence of social contact within readers' control, leading to lower perceived threat and susceptibility.

More information: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23216010

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Croatia registers first swine flu death this season

Dec 28, 2010

Croatia recorded its first death linked to swine flu this season as a 60-year-old man infected with H1N1 virus died at a Zagreb hospital, the national public health institute said on Tuesday.

Recommended for you

New survey of employers about the health insurance market

1 hour ago

A new nationally representative survey of employers—the largest purchasers of health care in the country— shows that most are unfamiliar with objective metrics of health plan quality information. The survey, conducted ...

Running really can keep you young, study says

4 hours ago

If you are an active senior who wants to stay younger, keep on running. A new study involving the University of Colorado Boulder and Humboldt State University shows that senior citizens who run several times ...

The American athletics track is still a man's world

4 hours ago

The limited coverage that American female athletes get in the media is one of many subtle forms of gender biases they have to cope with. The little exposure they do get often focuses more on their attire, or how attractive, ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.