mother_warn_her_daughter_for_bad_behavior_pp“When will they ever learn!”

If you wonder why all your pleadings and warnings and worst-case scenarios don’t seem to have an influence on your child’s behavior, it may be time to lose the negativity:

A recent study suggests that focusing on positive results, such as having better skin and more money by not smoking, rather than negative consequences (lung cancer and mortality risks) may be more effective when trying to send warnings to young people.

In light of recent studies suggesting that graphic cigarette pack warnings have little impact on teens, the new findings help explain why kids are not able to learn from bad news in order to apply it to future events.


Marie Ellis zooms in:

Even when they became aware of the risks, the younger participants were less likely to learn from the information showing that the future could be worse than expected.

However, the ability to learn from good news was evident across all age groups.


Ellis quotes the study’s authors:

Lead author Dr. Christina Moutsiana says:

“The findings could help to explain the limited impact of campaigns targeted at young people to highlight the dangers of careless driving, unprotected sex, alcohol and drug abuse, and other risky behaviors.”

[Senior author] Dr. [Tali] Sharot continues:

“Our findings show that if you want to get young people to better learn about the risks associated with their choices, you might want to focus on the benefits that a positive change would bring rather than hounding them with horror stories.”


But there is evidence that adults have responded positively to very negative advertisements regarding smoking:

The high-exposure Tips media campaign was effective at increasing population-level quit attempts. The growth in smokers who quit and became sustained quitters could have added from a third to almost half a million quality-adjusted life-years to the US population. Expanded implementation of similar campaigns globally could accelerate progress on the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and reduce smoking prevalence globally.


Some of these ads are brutal to watch.  Mike Stobbe has news that one of the featured participants of the Tips media campaign has died:

A North Carolina woman featured prominently in a graphic government ad campaign to get people to stop smoking died Monday of cancer.

Terrie Hall died at a hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C., federal officials said. She was 53.

“She was a public health hero,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which conducted the campaign. “She may well have saved more lives than most doctors do.”

A former smoker whose voice box was removed years ago, Hall took a leading role in the campaign that showed how smoking-related cancer ravages the body. Officials believe the “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign led as many as 100,000 Americans smokers to quit.


(Image: David Castillo Domenici/