Journal of Health Communication
Scholars across multiple domains have identified the presence of inconsistency-arousing information in direct-to-consumer (DTC) prescription drug advertisements, and have suggested that these appeals, which highlight differences between people’s actual and desired lives, may create psychological disequilibrium. However, experimental assessment of the distinct influence of inconsistency-arousing information in this domain is rare. Guided by goal disruption theory (GDT)—a framework that outlines people’s reactions to goal expectation violations—we created DTC advertisements designed to make people’s life inconsistencies salient. The influence of these ads on people’s perceptions of, and intentions to use, prescription drugs was then assessed. Results from an SEM analysis support the proposed model, indicating that compared to a control ad, an ad containing a goal expectation violation manipulation resulted in higher levels of psychological disequilibrium; in turn, psychological disequilibrium led to positive evaluations of the ad and the drug, positive outcome expectations of the drug, increased purposive harm endurance, and increased usage intentions. The current results suggest a psychological pathway that begins with a negative goal expectation violation and ends with increased usage intentions and a greater willingness to endure harm to make use possible.
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