Persuasive strategies for effective anti-drug messages

Nancy Grant Harrington, Derek R. Lane, Lewis Donohew, Rick S. Zimmerman, Gretchen R. Norling, Jeong Hyun An, Wai Hsien Cheah, Leola McGlure, Tim Buckingham, Elizabeth Garofalo, Carla C. Bevins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


The principal objective of this paper is to present the results of an experimental study designed to investigate the influence of message design strategies on cognitive processing and changes in attitudes, behavioral intentions, and behavior in relation to marijuana use. Hypotheses and research questions were generated based on an integrated theoretical model of message processing and outcome. Formative research was conducted to investigate the construct of message cognition value and to evaluate anti-marijuana messages designed to vary on sensation and cognition value. In the experiment, 338 18- to 20-year-old college students viewed four anti-marijuana public service announcements four times each over a 4 week period in a laboratory setting. They completed measures of sensation seeking (NFS), need for cognition (NFC), cognitive processing, attitudes toward marijuana use, behavioral intentions to use marijuana, and self-reported marijuana use. Results provide partial support for a main effect of message sensation value (MSV) on changes in attitude, behavioral intention, and behavior, and limited support for an interaction effect of MSV with NFS on change in attitude. Additionally, a significant main effect for message cognition value (MCV) indicates that high cognition value messages led to greater thought listing, free recall, and cued recall than low cognition value messages, but there was no support for an interaction effect of MCV with NFC on cognitive processing. MCV did not have a main effect on attitude, behavioral intention, or behavior, nor was support found for a moderating effect of NFC on attitude, behavioral intention, or behavior. Interaction effects involving NFC/MCV and NFS/MSV were not found. Implications of results for future research and theory development are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-38
Number of pages23
JournalCommunication Monographs
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication


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