Examining the influence of self-efficacy on message-framing effects: Reducing salt consumption in the general population

J. van 't Riet*, R.A.C. Ruiter, C. Smerecnik, H. de Vries

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Health-promoting messages can be framed in terms of the gains associated with healthy behavior or the losses associated with unhealthy behavior. Studies show inconsistent results as to which type of framing is more effective. In this study, we investigated whether participants' self-efficacy to decrease salt intake would moderate the effects of gain- and loss-framed messages promoting a low-salt diet on information acceptance, intention, and behavior. We hypothesized that loss-framed messages would more effectively decrease salt intake than gain-framed messages, but only when participants had high self-efficacy. A total of 575 adults, recruited from an Internet panel, took part in the study. Half of the participants received self-efficacy enhancing information, whereas the other half received no such information. After this self-efficacy manipulation, half of the participants received a gain-framed and half of the participants received a loss-framed message promoting a low-salt diet. Information acceptance and intention were assessed at immediate posttest and salt consumption was assessed at a 3-week follow-up. The results revealed the hypothesized effect on behavior. However, the interaction between self-efficacy and framing on salt consumption was not mediated by measures of information acceptance and intention to reduce salt intake. Our results suggest that messages stressing losses may be more effective than messages stressing gains in decreasing salt intake but only in persons with high self-efficacy to do so.

Original languageEnglish
Article number922221450
Pages (from-to)165-172
Number of pages8
JournalBasic and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010



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