Selective Media Coverage May Cause Us to Forget Certain Health Facts

Posted on November 4, 2015

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Findings of a recent study indicate that personal anxiety and mass media coverage interact to determine what people remember about a disease.

“The starting point for our study was the exaggerated coverage of Ebola in 2014 despite the absence of any serious consequences in the United States,” says psychological scientist Alin Coman of Princeton University. “The common sense intuition is that in situations like these, in which health risks are exaggerated by the media, the audience pays more attention to the information presented.”

An unintended outcome of selective media coverage, says Coman, is that it also shapes how people remember information that isn’t presented. For example, a newscast that highlights only some disease symptoms may induce people to forget other symptoms they had learned previously, but it probably won’t affect their ability to recall disease characteristics that aren’t symptoms.

Coman plans to conduct further research to illuminate some of the behavioral strategies that could be used by both those in media and in medicine to ensure that information is disseminated to the public in efficient, and accurate, ways.

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Category(s):Health / Illness / Medical Issues, Health Psychology

Source material from Psychological Science

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