Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Health Messages Transportation Video Games Drink Driving

Major Advisor

Hart Blanton

Associate Advisor

Kerry Marsh

Associate Advisor

Ken Bowen

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Immersion in a video game environment provides a promising social marketing framework to communicate health relevant information. The highly immersive nature of recreational games can be used to enhance the effectiveness of health information embedded in the game itself via a model of persuasion I term Psychological Immersion. This approach was inspired by work on Narrative Transportation (Green and Brock, 2000) and Telepresence (Minsky, 1980), whereby transportation into fictional narratives increases susceptibility to influence from health messages in fictional texts and presence research has suggested a state similar to transportation exists for virtual environments. I pursued four questions to explore this model:

(1) Is there a moderating role of immersion on persuasion in a virtual gaming environment? The initial test of this question was performed in Study 1, with results illustrating moderation by immersion of the influence of anti-DUI posters on post-test DUI willingness.

(2) What mechanisms account for the predicted tendency for Psychological Immersion to heighten susceptibility to graphic health warnings? Drawing from research on counterarguing of persuasive messages and belief priming, two competing hypotheses were tested in Study 2. Results showed support for suppression of counterarguing.

(3) Should messages be embedded in the high-action or low-action periods of game play? This question was addressed in Study 3 by participants viewing anti-DUI posters in either combat or non-combat oriented areas of the game. Results suggested no overall benefit to placing messages in high- versus low-action scenes, but did suggest that the persuasive effect of posters were sensitive to placement in gaming scenes.

(4) Do the effects of the model generalize across different types of games and different health-risk domains? In Study 4 anti-DUI and anti-smoking posters were embedded in a third person car racing game, extending results to a new game and new outcome. Posters in this study failed to reduce DUI willingness, but showed some evidence of ameliorating smoking willingness.

These four studies outline a new technique for health message dissemination, provide evidence for the mechanism of its action, and its generalizability to a new health domain and game genre.