Assistant professor Jessica Gall Myrick is author of a new book, The Role of Emotions in Preventative Health Communication, that explores the connections between health messages, a person’s feelings and health behavior.
“This was a passion project for me,” she said about her first book, which was published by Lexington Books in September.
Gall Myrick said she decided to expand on her ideas in a longer format because she was tired of explaining over and over that it is important to study the connections between feelings and health behaviors.
The book summarizes past scholarship and outlines previous research that contributes to her ideas about health messaging used as a prevention tool. It examines health messages that use emotions intended to motivate people to take preventative measures to maintain good health or to bring about reforms in health policies.
“We could save lives and money by some simple behavior changes and some simple policy changes,” Gall Myrick said.
For example, the Tips From Former Smokers commercial messaging campaign shows people with amputations, holes in their throats and other images. Its goal is to use fear as a tactic to convince people to prevent those conditions by not smoking.
Her book explains that effective preventative health messages evoke emotions in observers that cause them to take action in order to stay healthy. It examines nine different emotions and brings together research from other scholars on their effectiveness.
“We think we’re really rational and logical about our health, but more often than not our actions are driven by our emotions. That’s actually a good thing because our emotions are there to guide us,” she said. “If researchers in particular can utilize that information on how different emotions guide us down different behavioral paths, we can make effective preventative messages to communicate about ways to improve well-being.”