VISUAL ATTENTION TO HEALTH WARNINGS IN TOBACCO ADVERTISEMENTS: AN EYE-TRACKING RESEARCH BETWEEN SMOKERS AND NON-SMOKERS
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Using a physiological eye-tracking approach, previous research has suggested that novel health warnings inserted in tobacco ads capture visual attention better than mandated ones. Nonetheless, no up-to-date studies have analyzed the eye movement behavior between smokers and non-smokers to examine the presence of attentive biases towards the warnings. The main objective of this research was to evaluate the effectiveness of new text-only warning labels in capturing and holding visual attention, taking into account the presence or absence of smoking habit (smokers vs. non-smokers). Three versions of an ad were used: version 1 was the original ad including the mandated warning message, and versions 2 and 3 were modifications of the original message. A sample of 132 Spanish participants (50% smokers and 50% non-smokers) freely explored one version of the ad while eye movements were recorded. Eye tracking was used as an index of the attentive deployment towards the health message. Immediately after ads presentation, the participants also completed a masked memory task. The results indicated a better recall of the original version of the warning than newer ones. Moreover, contrary to the previous research, the eye movement data showed that new warnings inserted in tobacco ads were neither more quickly attended than mandated message nor cognitively processed to a greater extent. Finally, our results did not reveal the presence of attentive biases for the warning labels embedded in the ad, suggesting that the time spent looking at the warning message, as well as the ability to remember it, appear to be identical for the smokers and non-smokers. Overall, our research offers some significant implications for the development of tobacco advertising policies.
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