Seeking Effective Advertising Appeals for Adults Who are Hesitant to COVID-19 Vaccination: The Role of Humor, Social Norm, and Threat Information

Hye Jin Yoon and Jeong-Yeob Han has been awarded the Faculty Seed Grants in the Sciences Program ($9,720) through The Owens Institute for Behavioral Research (OIBR) for their proposed project

Abstract: People have been found to use humor to cope with life stress and adversity (Lefcourt 2000), to reassess situations that threaten their well-being (Frankl 1960), and to find hope in the most devastating circumstances (Henman 2001). Yovetich, Dale, and Hudak (1990) found that subjects who were given humorous stimuli were less anxious and less stressed about an upcoming laboratory-induced threat. In testing the enhancing effects of sense of humor, Kuiper, McKenzie, and Belanger (1995) found that humorous individuals reported greater positive affect in stressful situations than less humorous individuals. Thus, it is no surprise that humor has been used in clinical and educational settings, especially regarding sensitive topics, to relieve anxiety and decrease discomfort, thus, improving a positive outcome, whether that be healing, learning, attitude change, or participation (Johnson 1990). So far, there is limited literature focusing on the humor effects in health communication and finding literature on humor effects on vaccination messages is even more difficult (with the exception of Moyer-Gusé et al. 2018 testing humor effects on MMR vaccine messages). As Moyer-Gusé et al. (2018) found, humor can help reduce resistance to vaccine messaging and vaccine hesitancy, which would result in higher positive attitudes and behavioral intention when it comes to vaccination. This research continues this line of work where other message elements such as social norm and threat information is tested alongside humor to find the optimal combination of message appeals for vaccination messaging for vaccine hesitant individuals. 

Hye Jin Yoon  Jeong-Yeob Han