Adolescent Attention to Disgust Visuals in Cigarette Graphic Warning Labels



      Adolescents are often a target audience for disgust-eliciting antismoking messages, including graphic warning labels (GWLs) on cigarette packages. Yet, few studies have examined how adolescents attend and respond to disgust imagery frequently depicted in these messages.


      A within-subjects eye-tracking experiment with middle school youth (N = 436) examined attention for GWLs that feature disgust versus nondisgust images. Hypotheses were based on emotion theory and previous findings with adult participants. This study also tested whether living with a smoker moderated effects of attention on negative emotions and risk beliefs.


      Participants paid similar levels of attention to warnings with disgust visuals as they did warnings with nondisgust visuals, accounting for other differences in the warnings. The presence of a disgust visual drew greater attention to the warning image and reduced attention for the warning text. These viewing patterns were similar for youth who live with a smoker and those who do not. Attention to disgust imagery was the only attentional factor to predict negative emotional reactions, and this relationship was driven by results observed among youth who live with a smoker. Attention to neither image nor text predicted risk beliefs.


      GWLs with disgust imagery do not trigger more or less attention to the overall warnings but do influence allocation of attention to images over text. Future work should confirm whether attention to disgust imagery itself is important for triggering negative emotional responses, particularly with youth for whom the message is more personally relevant.


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