Minsun Shim (Ph.D. ’08), an Assistant Professor of Speech Communication at the University of Georgia; Joseph N. Cappella, Ph.D., the Gerald R. Miller Professor of Communication at Annenberg; and Caryn Lerman, Ph.D., the Mary W. Calkins Professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Psychiatry and a Secondary Faculty member at Annenberg, have published an article “Familial Risk Cues in Direct-to-Consumer Prescription Drug Advertisements: Impacts on Intentions to Adopt Healthy Lifestyles and Pharmaceutical Choices,” in the Journal of Applied Communication Research (Vol. 38, Issue 3, August 2010, pgs. 230–247).
This study assessed the effects of cues of family history as a risk factor in direct-to-consumer advertisements. An experiment with a sample of 395 adults found significant impacts of familial risk cues on self-efficacy and behavioral intentions. Specifically, familial risk cues strengthened both intention to engage in healthy lifestyles and intention to seek advertised medications, partly through enhanced efficacy. Effects on perceived genetic risk for health conditions or belief in genetic determinism were not found. The findings suggest that familial risk cues incorporated in pharmaceutical appeals can enhance behavioral intentions in response to risk, without increasing a sense of fatalism. Theoretical and practical implications of the study are discussed.