Disgust-evoking graphic warnings on cigarette packs have stronger hold on teens’ attention
Graphic warning labels seem to steer the attention of adolescents towards images over text but do not influence the amount of overall attention paid to the warnings, a recent study has shown.
Researchers enrolled 436 middle-school adolescents (mean age, 12.91±0.90 years; 50.50 percent male) who underwent an eye-tracking experiment to measure their attention to graphic warning labels featuring disgust vs nondisgust images. Attention was measured according to the time to first fixation and proportional fixed duration (PFD).
Researchers found that teens did not look at the disgust warning significantly quicker than the nondisgust images (p>0.12). Smoking status appeared to have a moderating effect on this, however. Participants who lived with a smoker were slower to take notice of any warning. The complexity of the message also had no significant effect on either measure of attention.
On the other hand, disgust warnings were effective in holding attention longer. PFDs for disgust images were significantly longer than those for nondisgust warnings (p≤0.02). This corresponded to significantly lower PFD for text on packaging with disgust vs nondisgust warnings (p≤0.01).
“The present study goes beyond exposure, providing evidence that adolescents attend to disgust imagery, which in turn influences their emotional responses to graphic warning labels,” said researchers.
“Future studies and policy decisions should consider the impact of message complexity, processing motivation and individual differences such as developmental stage on additional outcomes related to attention for disgust-evoking graphic warning labels,” they added.