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.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
C. J. Lee acknowledges the support of the World-Leading University Fostering Program at Seoul National University, the Institute of Communication Research at Seoul National University, and Grant #2016016761 from the National Research Foundation of Korea. R.H. Nagler acknowledges support from the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health Grant 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 [grant number 2 K12-HD055887]. This content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.