Date of Award

Spring 5-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Sophie Janicke-Bowles, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Michelle Miller-Day, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Keith Weber, Ed.D.

Fourth Advisor

Benjamin D. Rosenberg, Ph.D.


Persuasive messages are often met with resistance. Message fatigue is a unique motivational state caused by excessive exposure to redundant messages, which leads to active and passive resistance towards persuasive messages. The consequences of active and passive resistance are particularly harmful when directed towards messages intended to assist individuals in making health decisions. This dissertation investigated a message framing strategy, moral matching, to combat message fatigue resistance in the context of COVID-19. Guided by message fatigue and moral foundation theory literature, there were three main purposes of this dissertation. The first purpose was to identify what features of COVID-19 health messaging contribute to perceived message fatigue. The second purpose was to reframe this content using moral rhetoric and experimentally test the effects of morally framed messages that match or mismatch an individual’s moral foundation on active and passive resistance. The third purpose was to investigate the boundary conditions of moral frames on the message's perceived effectiveness. Using a mixed-method approach, three studies were conducted to accomplish the aforementioned goals. In each study, participants were screened for political affiliation to implement moral matching techniques. Study One, 12 focus groups (N = 53) were conducted to uncover what type of COVID-19 health compliance message participants found most fatiguing and how repeated exposure to these messages evoked passive and active resistance. Results revealed four themes (i.e., overexposure to mask wearing COVID-19 messages, desensitization vs. reassurance, emotional exhaustion, and reactance) that further guided the development of morally framed messages. Study Two (N = 88), conducted a manipulation check to assess the efficacy of the messages. In Study Three, participants (N = 349) were randomly assigned to see a morally framed (i.e., loyalty or care) or a control COVID-19 health message promoting mask wearing. Results indicated morally matched messages may not combat fatigue, but that mismatched moral messages may lead to unintended consequences such as increased reactance to the message, for some people. In addition, results revealed that message fatigues active and passive resistance routes varied by political affiliation. The findings from this three-study dissertation have implications for developing personalized health campaign messages.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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