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EMAC 2019 Annual Conference

Lethal versus reproductive disease appeals in preventive health ads: The moderating effects of life history strategy and message framing

Published: May 28, 2019


Lachezar Ivanov, European University Viadrina; Martin Eisend, European University Viadrina; Sandra Diehl, Alpen-Adria-University Klagenfurt


health communication; evolutionary psychology; advertising effectiveness


In this paper, we rely on evolutionary psychology to examine how the use of lethal (threatening survival) versus reproductive (threatening reproduction) disease appeals affects smoking intention among consumers with different life history strategies. The results of two experimental studies indicate that smoking intention varies as a function of the type of appeal and the life history strategy adopted by the consumer: slow strategists┬┤ smoking intention is lower when a reproductive disease appeal is used, while fast strategists` smoking intention is lower when a lethal disease appeal is used. The interactive effect is moderated by message framing and appears only for negative framed messages, but not for positively framed messages. These results contribute to advertising research by providing an evolutionary explanation for the effects of disease appeals in preventive health communication.