Positive messaging and behaviour change

Tim Cotter writes in his latest “Awake” newsletter on “Do positive messages lead to more positive outcomes?”, which looks at the efficacy of positive and negative messaging in relation to behaviour change. I’ve read a lot of different articles that talk about the “loss aversion bias” and many others on how positive messaging can achieve better results, and wondered about the two.

The up-shot is “it depends” — primarily where the person is on their change journey.

Are we primarily trying to draw attention to the issue, or get already-concerned people into action? If we apply Obermiller’s observations to the bypass patients mentioned earlier, it is clear that the people in question were already painfully aware of the seriousness of the issues. So the positive approach to getting them into action was successful because it worked on motivating and supporting them to act.

Tim concludes by saying “These findings also highlight the importance of doing sound research before committing effort and resources to behaviour change initiatives.” Couldn’t agree more — that’s certainly our approach…

(Oh, and I recommend subscribing to Tim’s newsletter, which is available on his website.)