Effect of message congruency on attention and recall in pictorial health warning labels

In Tobacco Control, Kristen Lochbuehler and colleagues, including Joseph Cappella, investigate the effect of pictorial health warning label congruency on smokers’ attention and recall of label content. Daily smokers were randomly assigned to view pictorial warning labels (PWLs) where the label’s image and text were either congruent or incongruent in their theme. Participants had their eye movements tracked, and were asked to recall the label content both immediately after exposure and five days later. The authors find that those who viewed PWLs of a congruent theme spent less time focusing on the text than those viewing incongruent labels. Despite that, they were more likely to correctly recall label content immediately after exposure and five days later. These results suggest that message congruency between visual and textual information is beneficial for recalling label content, and that images capture smokers’ attention better than text.