233623 Using emotional communication to address conspiracy beliefs in health education messages

Monday, November 8, 2010

Angela C. White , Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Kristin N. P. Marie Evans, MA , Department of Communication Sciences, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Background: A considerable percentage of the Black population endorses HIV conspiracy beliefs (Bogart & Bird, 2003). Endorsement of these beliefs appears to be related to mistrust in institutions due to historical and present discrimination. Emotional communication in health education messages may decrease institutional mistrust and reduce endorsement of HIV conspiracy beliefs. In this study, we examined the effect of empathy in HIV education messages on institutional trust and endorsement of conspiracy beliefs. Methods: Black participants (N = 180) were pre-tested on their degree of institutional trust, their knowledge regarding HIV, and their endorsement of HIV-related conspiracy beliefs. Participants read an HIV education message that expressed empathy (experimental condition) or expressed no emotion (control condition). Participants reported their institutional trust, HIV knowledge, and endorsement of HIV-related conspiracy beliefs at a one week post-test. Results / Outcomes: Participants who read the empathetic education message reported less endorsement of HIV conspiracy beliefs than participants who read the no emotion education message. This finding was moderated by institutional trust. Participants who reported an increase in institutional trust were more likely to report endorsing HIV conspiracy beliefs less than participants who did not report an increase in institutional trust. Conclusion: HIV conspiracy beliefs should be addressed in health education programs, as endorsement of HIV conspiracy beliefs is associated with less engagement in prevention and treatment behaviors. Education messages that express empathy will be effective in building institutional trust and promoting social justice as it applies to health education.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related education

Learning Objectives:
1. Discuss the connections between emotion and conspiracy beliefs. 2. Apply emotional communication principles to health education messages

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: student conducting research under faculty supervision.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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