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Anti-smoking ads effect teens more than adults

A study says ads depicting damage to the lungs caused by smoking, effect teenagers more than adults.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2006 13:21 IST

A new study has found that anti-smoking campaigns that use vivid images depicting damage to the lungs caused by smoking, effect teenagers more intensely and emotionally than they do young adults.

The study, by Paul Bolls from the University of Missouri-Columbia, the co-director of the Psychological Research on Information and Media Effects (PRIME) Lab, was carried out on two groups of participants who were divided into two groups: adults 22 to 24 years old and adolescents 12 to 14 years old.

Each participant viewed six 30-second substance abuse commercials. Commercials, which were in random order, portrayed different severity levels of health threats. Electrodes were placed on facial muscles to measure negative emotional responses. Attention, which was defined as the amount of mental effort participants expended to decipher the messages, was measured by taking participants' heart rates.

Bolls found that teenagers had a greater emotional response to threatening messages than the young adults. He added that the emotional response to a commercial was particularly noticeable during seconds 9 to 27 of the commercial.

He said that though teenagers allocated more mental efforts to understand the messages, they also reacted more strongly to the messages.

"Adolescents allocated more mental effort than adults to understand the messages but employed more effort for messages that were of very high threat. These more intense emotional reactions by adolescents can be due to less developed pathways in their brain for regulating emotional response.

Less ability to regulate the emotional response evoked by a threat means adolescents must increase the amount of work their brain must do to understand the threat," he said.

First Published: Mar 13, 2006 13:21 IST