Graphic gambling warnings: How they affect emotions, cognitive responses and attitude change

Abstract

The present study focuses on the effects of graphic warnings related to excessive gambling. It is based upon a theoretical model derived from both the Protection Motivation Theory (PMT) and the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM). We focus on video lottery terminal (VLT), one of the most hazardous format in the gaming industry. Our cohort consisted of 103 actual gamblers who reported previous gambling activity on VLT’s on a regular basis. We assess the effectiveness of graphic warnings vs. text-only warnings and the effectiveness of two major arguments (i.e., family vs. financial disruption). A 2 × 2 factorial design was used to test the direct and combined effects of two variables (i.e., warning content and presence vs. absence of a graphic). It was found that the presence of a graphic enhances both cognitive appraisal and fear, and has positive effects on the Depth of Information Processing. In addition, graphic content combined with family disruptions is more effective for changing attitudes and complying with the warning than other combinations of the manipulated variables. It is proposed that ELM and PMT complement each other to explain the effects of warnings. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

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