Neuroethics Publications

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version

2-2017

Publication Source

Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience

Volume

12

Issue

2

Start Page

283

Last Page

297

DOI

10.1093/scan/nsw113

Abstract

Designing persuasive content is challenging, in part because people can be poor predictors of their actions. Medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) activation during message exposure reliably predicts downstream behavior, but past work has been largely atheoretical. We replicated past results on this relationship and tested two additional framing effects known to alter message receptivity. First, we examined gain- vs. loss-framed reasons for a health behavior (sunscreen use). Consistent with predictions from prospect theory, we observed greater MPFC activity to gain- vs. loss-framed messages, and this activity was associated with behavior. This relationship was stronger for those who were not previously sunscreen users. Second, building on theories of action planning, we compared neural activity during messages regarding how vs. why to enact the behavior. We observed rostral inferior parietal lobule and posterior inferior frontal gyrus activity during action planning (“how” messages), and this activity was associated with behavior; this is in contrast to the relationship between MPFC activity during the “why” (i.e., gain and loss) messages and behavior. These results reinforce that persuasion occurs in part via self-value integration—seeing value and incorporating persuasive messages into one's self-concept—and extend this work to demonstrate how message framing and action planning may influence this process.

Keywords

persuasion, message framing, action planning, fMRI, MPFC

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Date Posted: 05 January 2018

This document has been peer reviewed.