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The Psychological Impacts and Message Features of Health Misinformation


Schmid, Philipp; Altay, Sacha; Scherer, Laura D (2023). The Psychological Impacts and Message Features of Health Misinformation. European Psychologist, 28(3):162-172.

Abstract

What does health misinformation look like, and what is its impact? We conducted a systematic review of 45 articles containing 64 randomized controlled trials (RCTs; N = 37,552) on the impact of health misinformation on behaviors and their psychological antecedents. We applied a planetary health perspective by framing environmental issues as human health issues and focusing on misinformation about diseases, vaccination, medication, nutrition, tobacco consumption, and climate change. We found that in 49% of the cases exposure to health misinformation damaged the psychological antecedents of behaviors such as knowledge, attitudes, or behavioral intentions. No RCTs evaluated the impact of exposure to misinformation on direct measures of health or pro-environmental behaviors (e.g., vaccination), and few studies explored the impact of misinformation on feelings, social norms, and trust. Most misinformation was based on logical fallacies, conspiracy theories, or fake experts. RCTs evaluating the impact of impossible expectations and cherry-picking are scarce. Most research focused on healthy adult US populations and used online samples. Future RCTs can build on our analysis and address the knowledge gaps we identified.

Abstract

What does health misinformation look like, and what is its impact? We conducted a systematic review of 45 articles containing 64 randomized controlled trials (RCTs; N = 37,552) on the impact of health misinformation on behaviors and their psychological antecedents. We applied a planetary health perspective by framing environmental issues as human health issues and focusing on misinformation about diseases, vaccination, medication, nutrition, tobacco consumption, and climate change. We found that in 49% of the cases exposure to health misinformation damaged the psychological antecedents of behaviors such as knowledge, attitudes, or behavioral intentions. No RCTs evaluated the impact of exposure to misinformation on direct measures of health or pro-environmental behaviors (e.g., vaccination), and few studies explored the impact of misinformation on feelings, social norms, and trust. Most misinformation was based on logical fallacies, conspiracy theories, or fake experts. RCTs evaluating the impact of impossible expectations and cherry-picking are scarce. Most research focused on healthy adult US populations and used online samples. Future RCTs can build on our analysis and address the knowledge gaps we identified.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
Social Sciences & Humanities > General Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords:theory of planned behavior, science denialism, planetary health, conspiracy theories
Language:English
Date:1 July 2023
Deposited On:04 Jan 2024 10:41
Last Modified:31 Mar 2024 01:36
Publisher:Hogrefe & Huber
ISSN:1016-9040
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1027/1016-9040/a000494
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)