Analyzing medical personnel’s perceptions of online health rumors
Soon, Jeremy Jia Qi
Date of Issue2017
Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine)
The internet is a hotbed for health rumors which are easily accessible to the public. Rumors are information without verifiable evidence. They can influence public behavior depending on how people perceive them. Prior research has examined perceptions of rumors in terms of intention to trust and to share. People that trust a rumor will be influenced to act according to what they believe to be their best interests, and likewise will be more motivated to share such a rumor. Research has also shown that these perceptions can be weakened with counter-rumors, which are messages that directly oppose a rumor. People that encounter health rumors online will naturally look for clarification with whom they perceive to be reliable information sources. Medically trained persons thus fall into this role, and it is important that medical personnel handle health rumors appropriately. This paper analyzes medical personnel’s intention to trust or share online health rumors as a function of two factors: rumor type and presence of counter-rumor. The two types of rumors are dread rumors which warn of bad consequences, and wish rumors which inform of potential benefit. A total of 60 participants were recruited to do a questionnaire which recorded quantitative scores for their intention to trust and share health rumors in the absence or presence of counter-rumors. A 2 (rumor type: wish, dread) x 2 (presence of counter-rumor: absent, present) factorial analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted. The results suggest that counter-rumors are effective in reducing intention to trust and share rumors, especially so for dread rumors. Thus this suggests that medical personnel are unlikely to trust or share health rumors, and counter messages are effective in lowering these perceptions.
Final Year Project (FYP)