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One-Sided Social Media Comments Influenced Opinions And Intentions About Home Birth An Experimental Study

Author: Holly O. Witteman, Angela Fagerlin, Nicole Exe, Marie-Eve Trottier, Brian J. Zikmund-Fisher
$15.00

As people increasingly turn to social media to access and create health evidence, the greater availability of data and information ought to help more people make evidence-informed health decisions that align with what matters to them. However, questions remain as to whether people can be swayed in favor of or against options by polarized social media, particularly in the case of controversial topics. We created a composite mock news article about home birth from six real news articles and randomly assigned participants in an online study to view comments posted about the original six articles. We found that exposure to one-sided social media comments with one-sided opinions influenced participants’ opinions of the health topic regardless of their reported level of previous knowledge, especially when comments contained personal stories. Comments representing a breadth of views did not influence opinions, which suggests that while exposure to one-sided comments may bias opinions, exposure to balanced comments may avoid such bias.

As people increasingly turn to social media to access and create health evidence, the greater availability of data and information ought to help more people make evidence-informed health decisions that align with what matters to them. However, questions remain as to whether people can be swayed in favor of or against options by polarized social media, particularly in the case of controversial topics. We created a composite mock news article about home birth from six real news articles and randomly assigned participants in an online study to view comments posted about the original six articles. We found that exposure to one-sided social media comments with one-sided opinions influenced participants’ opinions of the health topic regardless of their reported level of previous knowledge, especially when comments contained personal stories. Comments representing a breadth of views did not influence opinions, which suggests that while exposure to one-sided comments may bias opinions, exposure to balanced comments may avoid such bias.

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