Anticipated regret and the formation of behavioral intention: Implications for the design of persuasive health messages

Lourdes S Martinez, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation seeks to further public health efforts of health promotion by applying theory from social psychology and communication in the design of persuasive health messages that promote performance of prevention behaviors or reduction of risk behaviors. The behaviors under study (i.e. folic acid intake, exercise, tanning) are of particular relevance to young women and have been demonstrated to prevent or lead to adverse health outcomes, such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, or birth defects in prenatal children. Specifically, the dissertation examines the role of anticipated regret in shaping behavioral intention, and offers evidence for designing health messages that promote desirable behavior. ^ The first study used a national non-representative survey testing the role of anticipated regret on intention formation within the Integrative Model (IM) Framework (Fishbein & Ajzen, 2010). After establishing that anticipated regret significantly explained variance in behavioral intention of prevention behaviors (folic acid intake and exercise) among women high in certain personality traits (e.g. consideration of future consequences and regulatory focus of goal attainment) over and above the variance explained by the IM factors, a second study was performed testing the persuasive utility of anticipated regret appeals in designing health messages. The second study randomized participants to receive either a message emphasizing short- or long-term outcomes of performing a behavior (folic acid intake or exercise) and within this message whether an anticipated regret component was included or not. ^ Findings suggest that for folic acid intake, exposure to messages that include an anticipated regret component resulted in higher intentions than exposure to messages that did not include it. However, this finding was only found among women high in consideration of future consequences, and was not replicated in the exercise context. Furthermore, there is evidence from the mediation analysis that effects of exposure to anticipated regret messages on folic acid intentions among women high in consideration of future consequences are mediated through anticipated regret, and are independent of any effect through an attitudinal pathway. ^ Possible explanations for observed effects, as well as implications for future research are discussed.^

Subject Area

Business Administration, Marketing|Psychology, Social|Speech Communication|Health Sciences, Public Health|Education, Health|Mass Communications

Recommended Citation

Martinez, Lourdes S, "Anticipated regret and the formation of behavioral intention: Implications for the design of persuasive health messages" (2011). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3485614.