Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Tamera Schneider, (Committee Chair), Joseph Houpt, (Committee Member), Pamela Tsang, (Committee Member), John Updegraff, (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Persuasive messages are meant to influence people towards endorsing attitudes, intentions, and behaviors suggested in the message. However, describing the kinds of messages that are persuasive is not as helpful as understanding why certain messages are persuasive, yet others are not. The biobehavioral model of persuasion suggests that challenge-framed messages (messages that evoke low/moderate concern and high efficacy) are persuasive because they facilitate greater message elaboration leading to outcomes aligned with message suggestions. The following paragraphs outline the BMP and describe two experiments that tested the postulate that challenge-framed messages evoke greater message elaboration. In the first experiment (N = 160), messages framed to evoke different amounts of concern and efficacy were examined with an argument strength manipulation. It was hypothesized that the challenge-framed message would persuade people to adopt the suggestions in the message, and these effects would be strongest when the challenge-framed message was coupled with strong arguments. Although there was no evidence that challenge-framed messages were particularly effective when paired with strong arguments, the challenge-framed message did lead to greater interest in and perceived relevance of the message information and behaviors suggested in the message. A second experiment (N = 136) tested whether messages framed to evoke different levels of concern and efficacy lead to different peak pupil dilation, a measure of resource allocation. It was hypothesized that the challenge-framed message would lead to greater peak pupil dilation compared to other concern by efficacy frames. This hypothesis was not supported, likely because the messaging task lacked comparable methods with those from past research and imposed high cognitive demands across message conditions. Collectively, these results have implications for both basic and applied research. The findings from experiment 1 extend the BMP, showing that challenge-framed messages evoke responses characteristic of greater message elaboration. Persuasive campaigns should consider using challenge-framed messages, as these messages lead to components of greater message elaboration and behavioral engagement. Moreover, the findings from this dissertation highlight the need for comparable manipulation strength in factorial messaging designs. In addition, persuasion researchers who wish to incorporate pupillometry into their methodological repertoire must consider what procedural demands they impose on participants when testing message manipulations.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of Psychology

Year Degree Awarded