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Health Aff (Millwood). 2016 Apr;35(4):726-33. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2015.1382.

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

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Holly O. Witteman ( is an assistant professor in the Department of Family and Emergency Medicine at Université Laval and a research scientist at CHU de Québec, both in Québec City.
Angela Fagerlin is a professor in and chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Utah and a research scientist at the Veterans Affairs Salt Lake City Health Care System, both in Salt Lake City.
Nicole Exe is a research associate at the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.
Marie-Eve Trottier is a master's degree student in community health at Université Laval.
Brian J. Zikmund-Fisher is an associate professor of health behavior and health education, an associate professor of internal medicine, and codirector of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine, all at the University of Michigan.


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.


Information Technology; Maternal And Child Health; Media; Narratives; Public Opinion

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