Eye-tracking evidence that happy faces impair verbal message comprehension : The case of health warnings in irect-to-consumer pharmaceutical television commercials
Risk warning or disclosure information in advertising is only effective in correcting consumers' judgments if enough cognitive capacity is available to process that information. Hence, comprehension of verbal warnings in TV commercials may suffer if accompanied by positive visual elements. This research addresses this concern about cross-modality interference in the context of direct-to-consumer (DTC) pharmaceutical commercials in the United States by experimentally testing whether positive facial expressions reduce consumers' understanding of the mandated health warning. A content analysis of a sample of DTC commercials reveals that positive facial expressions are more prevalent during the verbal warning act of the commercials than during the other acts. An eye-tracking experiment conducted with specially produced DTC commercials, which vary the valence of characters' facial expressions during the health warning, provides evidence that happy faces reduce objective comprehension of the warning.