The effective targeting of high sensation-seeking adolescents, who are most at risk for drug abuse, requires the creation of high sensation value messages. Whereas previous research has focused on subjective reactions of receivers as the primary way to define message sensation value (MSV), we conceptualize message sensation value as the formal and content features (audio, visual, and format) of a message that contribute to subjective message sensation evaluations. The three objectives of this study were (a) to identify message design features that would aid in the development of effective prevention messages targeting high sensation seekers, (b) to develop an objective measure of message sensation value based on formal and content features of messages, and (c) to determine whether high message sensation value messages were associated with higher subjective evaluations of message sensation value. In the present study, 418 undergraduates each viewed 10 PSAs selected at random from a pool of 109 PSAs that had been previously coded for message sensation value. Analyses provide support for the central hypothesis of the study, indicating that perceived message sensation value is at least in part a product of the formal and content features of a PSA.
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