Measuring Media Exposure to Contradictory Health Information: A Comparative Analysis of Four Potential Measures

Commun Methods Meas. 2012 Jan 1;6(1):56-75. doi: 10.1080/19312458.2011.651348. Epub 2012 Mar 2.


There is increasing concern that the news media present conflicting health information on topics including cancer screening and nutrition, yet little is known about whether people notice such content. This study proposes four potential measures of media exposure to contradictory health information, using nutrition as an example (Measures I-IV). The measures varied on two dimensions: (1) content specificity, or whether specific nutrition topics and health consequences were mentioned in the question scripting, and (2) obtrusiveness, or whether "contradictory or conflicting information" was mentioned. Using data from the Annenberg National Health Communication Survey (ANHCS), we evaluated the performance of each measure against a set of validity criteria including nomological, convergent, and face validity. Overall, measure IV, which was moderately content-specific and obtrusive, performed consistently well and may prove most useful to researchers studying media effects of contradictory health information. Future directions and applications are discussed.