Pain promotion: negative effects of exposure to health charity appeals
Ross, Michael A.
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Health charity appeals are typically evaluated solely in terms of the amount of money raised relative to the administrative costs of the campaign. The effect of information communicated in these appeals on receivers' health related attitudes and behaviour has not been investigated. What is the effect of portrayals of suffering and helplessness on receivers who have the portrayed health problem? Social modelling research has shown that the experience of pain can be altered by exposure to models coping with pain. It is plausible, therefore, that campaign material depicting suffering and helplessness may adversely influence receivers with pain. To test this notion, four versions of a fund-raising brochure for a fictitious chronic back pain charity were constructed according to the principles of Protection Motivation Theory. Pain was described as either mildly or severely intense and debilitating (high vs. low Threat) and pain treatment as either effective or ineffective (high vs low Response Efficacy). In study 1, 92 service club members read one randomly selected version of the brochure and completed a questionnaire about their willingness to help the charity and a pledge form. Results of two 2(high vs. low Threat) x 2(high vs. low Response Efficacy) ANOVAs indicated that amount pledged was equivalent across the four brochures but that subjects' willingness to help was greater for the high Threat/low Response Efficacy brochure. Moreover, willingness to help accounted for a significant proportion of variance in amount pledged. In Study 2, 57 chronic pain patients completed the Coping Strategies Questionnaire before and after reading one randomly selected version of the brochure. Results of a 2(high vs. low Threat) X 2(high vs. low Response Efficacy) X 2(Time 1 vs. Time 2) between subjects, repeated measures MANOVA revealed that subjects' ability to ignore pain appeared to be lessened if subjects read the low Response Efficacy appeal compared to the high Response Efficacy appeal. Results from these studies offer preliminary evidence that health charity appeals that effectively stimulate a desire to help in receivers by portraying helplessness may adversely affect patients who have the portrayed health problem.