Conflicting health information is increasing in amount and visibility, as evidenced most recently by the controversy surrounding the risks and benefits of childhood vaccinations. The mechanisms through which conflicting information affects individuals are poorly understood; thus, we are unprepared to help people process conflicting information when making important health decisions. In this viewpoint article, we describe this problem, summarize insights from the existing literature on the prevalence and effects of conflicting health information, and identify important knowledge gaps. We propose a working definition of conflicting health information and describe a conceptual typology to guide future research in this area. The typology classifies conflicting information according to four fundamental dimensions: the substantive issue under conflict, the number of conflicting sources (multiplicity), the degree of evidence heterogeneity and the degree of temporal inconsistency.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
DMC's salary was partially supported by the National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, through Grant KL2TR000084. RHN acknowledges support from the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health Grant (2K12-HD055887) from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development, the Office of Research on Women's Health and the National Institute on Aging, administered by the University of Minnesota Deborah E. Powell Center for Women's Health. NFD acknowledges the generous support of the U. S. National Science Foundation (Award#1231231 administered by Decision Research). PKJH acknowledges the support of the National Human Genome Research Institute under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Science Foundation or the National Institutes of Health.
- conflicting information