Source-specific Exposure to Contradictory Nutrition Information: Documenting Prevalence and Effects on Adverse Cognitive and Behavioral Outcomes

Health Commun. 2018 Apr;33(4):453-461. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2016.1278495. Epub 2017 Feb 2.


Communication scholars have raised concerns that the media present contradictory or conflicting information on health, science, and political issues, speculating that such information may have adverse effects on public cognitions, affect, and behaviors. However, the evidence base for the effects of contradictory messages remains thin. Using nutrition as a case example, this study builds upon this nascent literature by employing a three-wave panel dataset from a survey with a nationally representative sample of American adults. We found that exposure to contradictory nutrition messages from television increases nutrition confusion, whereas exposure from print media decreases confusion. Moreover, nutrition confusion was positively associated with nutrition backlash, and nutrition backlash decreased engagement in fruit and vegetable consumption. Implications for campaigns and other communication interventions are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Communication / standards*
  • Health Promotion / standards*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mass Media*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Policy*
  • Prevalence
  • Public Opinion
  • Social Media
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States