Do you want to help your husband quit smoking? This might come in handy. US researchers have suggested that rather than inciting fear, anti-smoking campaigns should tap into smokers' memories and tug at their heartstrings, as persuasive messages can influence their smoking attitudes.
The study appeared in Communication Research Reports. Advertisers often use nostalgia-evoking messages to promote consumer products, and the same emotional tactic could be just as effective in encouraging healthy behaviours, argue Ali Hussain, and Maria Lapinski from Michigan State University. "A lot of no-smoking messages are centred around fear, disgust and guilt," Hussain said.
‘Advertisers often use nostalgia-evoking messages to promote consumer products, and the same emotional tactic could be just as effective in encouraging healthy behaviours.’
"But smokers often don't buy the messages and instead feel badly about themselves and the person who is trying to scare them," Hussain added. Despite the health risks, a key hurdle for health communicators is rejection and avoidance of messages, Lapinski stated. To find a solution, they conducted a study of smokers, ages 18 to 39, exposing some to a nostalgic Public Service Announcement (PSA) that Hussain created and some to a control message.
The results indicated that those who viewed the PSA, reported greater nostalgic emotions and displayed stronger negative attitudes toward smoking, especially women. The PSA script includes phrases such as, "I remember when I was a boy" and "I miss the simplicity of life, being outside on a warm summer night," making references to familiar smells and tastes from bygone days.
Nostalgia-themed PSAs play off consumers' most cherished and personal memories, so they feel more engaged, the researchers explained. And that nostalgic thinking influences attitudes and behaviours.
"Our study, which to our knowledge is first of its kind, shows promise for using nostalgic messages to promote pro-social behaviours," Lapinski explained. "We know that policy and environmental changes have an influence on smoking and this study indicates persuasive messages can influence smoking attitudes," Lapinski concluded.