||1R21CA218054-01A1 Interpret this number
||University Of Minnesota
||Effects of Prior Exposure to Conflicting Health Information on Responses to Subsequent Unrelated Health Messages
Many population-level public health strategies rely on messaging to promote cancer prevention and control.
These strategies do not take place in a vacuum; rather, they occur in the context of a broader public
information environment, which is increasingly characterized by conflicting and often controversial health
information. Although studies have documented that such information is prevalent, a critical question remains
unanswered: does exposure to conflicting health information in people's routine interactions with the broader
information environment threaten the success of message-based population-level public health strategies?
And, if so, who is most susceptible to the effects of such exposure? These are questions that cannot be
ignored, given the substantial investments made in such strategies, including the estimated $2.2-$2.6 billion
that NIH spends every year on behavioral interventions to prevent cancer and other chronic diseases. The
proposed study will provide a rigorous empirical test of these critical answered questions, guided by two
specific aims: First, to evaluate whether prior exposure to conflicting health information influences responses to
subsequent unrelated and uncontested health messages, a phenomenon that has been described as
“carryover effects” (Primary Aim); and second, to identify whether there are individual-level differences in how
conflict affects responses to these unrelated and uncontested health messages (Secondary Aim). To
accomplish these aims, an online survey-based experiment using a population-based sample of U.S. adults
(N=~1400) will be conducted. At 3 time points across a 3-week period, participants will be exposed to real
news stories about several health topics (e.g., nutrition, mammography, HPV vaccine). Participants will be
randomized to 1 of 2 treatment groups that differ only in the amount of conflict presented in these news stories
(high conflict, no conflict). After the 3-week period, all participants will be exposed to unrelated messages
about behaviors for which there is scientific consensus (e.g., skin cancer prevention). To assess carryover
effects, cognitive, affective, and behavioral intentional responses to these messages (e.g., attitudes toward and
interest in sun-protective behaviors) will be measured. These messages are expected to be less effective
among those who were randomized to receive conflicting health information. Individual-level differences in the
pattern of these responses are also expected, with carryover effects of exposure to conflict being more
pronounced among certain groups (e.g., those with greater trust in media sources, those of lower
socioeconomic position). Using an innovative research design, the proposed project will directly assess
whether the broader information environment, with its ubiquitous conflicting health messages, undermines the
success of message-based population-level public health strategies.
Effects of Media Exposure to Conflicting Information About Mammography: Results From a Population-based Survey Experiment.
, Yzer M.C.
, Rothman A.J.
Annals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, 2019-08-29; 53(10), p. 896-908.