Promotion of Dental Care using Visual Perspectives in Mental Imagery: A Cultural Approach

Lead Research Organisation: University of Essex
Department Name: Psychology


Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.
Description In all studies, participants completed a face measure (Zane & Yeh, 2002) first, then imagined engaging in a future dental health behaviour using a 1st-person or a 3rd-person perspective (following Libby et al., 2007) and answered questions about the visualized action. Participants were recruited using the departmental participant pool or via advertisements on campus. In all studies, outcome variables were analysed as a function of visual perspective and level of endorsed face (and cultural background in Study 1).

Study 1 (n=180): Participants were instructed to picture themselves purchasing mouthwash, a behaviour that is likely to take place in public. They then reported on their intentions to purchase mouthwash and were given a £5 voucher allowing them to purchase self-care products at the campus shop where the type of product purchased (mouthwash or other products) using the voucher was noted.

Study 2 (n=125): Replicating the procedure in Study 1, this study examined a dental behaviour typically exercised in private: flossing. To examine behavioural outcomes (in addition to intentions), participants were handed 7 individually wrapped flosses to use within the coming week and asked to report how many they actually used at the end of the week.

Study 3 (n=150): Participants were asked to imagine engaging in flossing or failing to engage in flossing from a 1st versus 3rd-person perspective. We measured attitudes towards flossing and intentions to floss as outcome variables.

Study 4 (n=209): This study also focused on flossing, this time highlighting the public (e.g., having bad breath) versus private (e.g., getting cavities) consequences of not flossing using a health message prior to the visualization task. It was conducted online and attitudes and intentions were assessed.

Study 5 (n=71): This study explored whether the 3rd- person perspective effects are due to seeing oneself from the perspective of the generalized other by exposing participants to schematic faces with a goal to unobtrusively induce feelings of public scrutiny. Participants were invited to participate in a study on product evaluation. The task consisted of trying three different kinds of mouthwash, one with no label, the other two labelled in such a way to highlight social (preventing bad breath) or private (preventing cavities) consequences of using mouthwash. Participants tried the no label mouthwash first, followed by the other two (counterbalanced). This task took place with a poster present or not (Kitayama, et al. 2004). Participants competed an evaluation form after trying each mouthwash, which included measures on attitudes and intentions concerning purchasing that mouthwash.

Study 6 (n=111): This study was conducted to examine the reasons underlying the stronger impact of the 3rd-person perspective on those endorsing high levels of face for public behaviours and 1st-person perspective for private behaviours. In a between-subjects design, participants imagined purchasing mouthwash (public) and flossing (private) dental health behaviour and reported which perspective they took during visualization. They also reported how vivid, realistic, and easy it was to imagine these behaviours, and described in an open-ended fashion what they imagined. Descriptions were coded for abstractness and concreteness.
Exploitation Route Project findings also contribute to applied knowledge that can have potential impact on the interactions between patients and practitioners (e.g., dentists, dental hygienists) who aim to promote adoption of positive dental health behaviours at the population level. Specifically, the evidence demonstrates that how imagining a dental health behaviour to patients can be recommended depends on the type of behaviour in question (e.g., public as purchasing mouthwash or private as flossing) and the extent to which individuals care about what others think of them (face). Thus, our findings suggest that a particular perspective in visual imagery cannot be suggested to everyone for all behaviours and that recommendations should be construed in more targeted ways.
Sectors Healthcare

Description The project findings have been published only recently (September 2014), hence the exposure to our findings has been so far limited. In our view, these are the groups that our project will have an impact upon: In the first instance, the project findings and outputs make an impact on the literature focusing on the role of visual perspective in imagery by providing evidence for the important moderating role played by two factors: type of imagined behaviour (public or private) and the extent to which individuals worry about what others might think of them (endorsement of face). In none of the studies we ran, we were able to replicate the main effect of visual perspective as has been shown in previous studies. Thus our findings open up a discussion within this literature by highlighting the role of a situational and an individual difference variable in understanding the previously demonstrated effects of visual perspective in visual imagery. More broadly speaking, the project findings and outputs contribute to the larger literature in social cognition, health behaviour change, and cultural psychology. This way, they cut across traditional subdisciplinary boundaries and reach different audiences who rarely cross paths. Finally, the project findings are relevant for research in other academic disciplines. Researchers in Dentistry, Public Health and Medicine have shown interest in applying the visualization method to other health behaviours, while taking into account the moderating factors explored in the current project. Researchers in other disciplines working on behaviour change are also potential beneficiaries of the current findings. These include, among others, economists who use behaviour change techniques in the context of overspending or risky decision making in financial matters, researchers in education who study behaviour change techniques in academic domains with a goal to help them achieve their academic goals, and researchers in communication who study behaviour change in areas such as political communication.
Description Promotion of Healthy Eating using Visual Perspectives in Mental Imagery
Amount £79,985 (GBP)
Funding ID F/00 213/V 
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2011 
End 11/2012
Title Datasets 
Description As part of this project, we have run several studies and stored the associated data in the Data Archive based at the University of Essex. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2013 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact By making the datasets available publicly, we opened up the possibility of other researchers using it for their own research. 
Description Culture-Sensitive Health Communication Network 
Organisation University of Erfurt
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I was invited as one of the 16 academics from all around the world to join a network on culture-sensitive health communication, partly due to my work funded by this ESRC grant. This network held its first meeting in Erfurt, Germany in May 2014, where members of the network presented their work relevant to the topic. One tangible outcome of this meeting was a review paper submitted to a special issue on culture-sensitive health communication to be published in the journal of Medical Decision Making. This manuscript is currently being revised and resubmitted by the research group that constitutes this network of academics. Moreover, tentative plans were also discussed at this meeting to apply for large international grants with the members of the network. Finally, as part of the meeting held in May, the group prepared a video where the members of the network were interviewed to comment on different aspects of culture-sensitive health communication.
Collaborator Contribution Other members of this network contributed to the meeting on Culture-Sensitive Health Communication and to the writing of the review article.
Impact Betsch, C., Böhm, R., Airhihenbuwa, C., Butler, R., Chapman, G., Haase, N., Herrmann, B. Igarashi, T., Kitayama, S., Korn, L., Nurm, Ü-K., Rohrmann, B., Rothman, A., Shavitt, S., Updegraff, J., & Uskul, A. K. (revise and resubmit). Improving medical decision making through culture-sensitive health communication - An agenda for science and practice. Medical Decision Making.
Start Year 2014