In deciding whether to engage in a behavior, a person usually makes mental accounts of pros and cons. The CTL (Trope & Liberman, 2010) suggests that individuals, when exposed to certain temporal frames generate pros or cons. Cons become more salient as the temporal distance from the behavioral outcome decreases (i.e., visible skin improvements within one week). On the contrary, pros become more salient as the temporal distance from the behavioral outcome increases (i.e., visible skin improvements within six months). In other words, a decrease in temporal distance makes easier to generate cons and more difficult to generate pros. Moreover, because attitudes are found to be more in line with the message when the retrieval process of abstract representations is easy, the ease of retrieval is correlated with generating pros and cons (Eyal, Liberman, Trope, & Walther, 2004). Empirical evidence supports the above notions. When presented with a behavior concerning the near future, as opposed to the distant future, participants were more likely to generate cons and, they had less favorable attitudes towards the behavior (Herzog, Hansen & Wänke, 2007).
In the current study, these notions are further linked to the PKM (Friestad & Wright, 1994). The PKM states that the exposure to persuasive messages leads to the activation of individuals’ persuasion knowledge. Persuasion knowledge refers to a person’s ability to identify when a persuasion attempt occurs. Because individuals want to protect their freedom in choices, to cope with the persuasion attempt, they will generate more cons, therefore counter arguments towards the message (Brehm, 1966). Eventually, counter arguments will lead to more negative attitudes towards the behavior (Matthes, Schemer, & Wirth, 2007). Specifically, counter-arguing reflects a person’s tendency to question the message validity (Obermiller et al., 2005).
Building upon both theories, I propose that a message which conveys the short-term consequences of daily SPF sunscreen application should be easier to elaborate, compared to a message which conveys the long-term consequences. However, because the retrieval process is more concrete for near future behavioral outcomes than for distant future behavioral outcomes, short-term consequences may prompt individuals to generate more counter-arguments, than long-term consequences (Trope & Liberman, 2010). In the distant future, the abstract representations of the behavioral outcomes (i.e., skin improvements) are vague and blurry, whereas in the near future, due to the behavioral outcomes’ proximity in time, details are much better retrieved and remembered. Thus, a discrepancy between the promised behavioral outcomes and the actual outcomes of daily SPF sunscreen application may easily activate individuals’ persuasion knowledge, which will induce more counter-arguing, and generate more negative attitude towards the behavior