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

Rebekah H. Nagler, Robert C. Hornik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


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, 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-75
Number of pages20
JournalCommunication Methods and Measures
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) (P20-CA095856-08). This publication’s contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NCI. Funding support for R.H.N. was also provided through NCI by the Harvard Education Program in Cancer Prevention and Control (5 R25-CA057711-17). The data were provided by the Annenberg National Health Communication Survey supported, in part, by the Annenberg Trust at Sunnylands. We would like to thank Vish Viswanath for his feedback on an earlier draft of this manuscript. We also thank Jörg Matthes and two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments.


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