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    Magazine versus physicians: the influence of information source on intentions to use oral contraceptives.

    Halpern DF Blackman SL

    Women and Health. 1985 Spring; 10(1):9-23.

    An experiment was conducted among a group of college students to assess the relative influence of various information sources on the subjects' intentions to either use or recommend the use of oral contraceptives (OCs) to others. 162 females and 90 male students at the University of California were presented with a questionnaire concerning the subjects' background characteristics, their attitudes about OCs. The subjects were then asked to read 600-word passages containing information on OCs. All of the passages contained identical statistical information; but 1/2 of the students were given passages in which the statistical information was used to support the use of OCs, and the remaining students were given passages in which the data was used to discourage OC usage. The students were told that the passage was a summary of a published article and that the article was attributable either to a traditional physician, a nontraditional physician, a traditional women's magazine, or a nontraditional (feminist) women's magazine. After reading the passages, the students were presented with another questionnaire concerning their attitudes toward OCs. The subjects' attitudes both before and after reading the passage were evaluated using a 9-point Likert scale, and analysis of variance was used to determine if the students significantly altered their attitudes toward OCs after reading the passages. Students who read supporting passages had more positive attitudes toward OCs than they had before reading the passages, and students who read opposing passages had more negative attitudes toward OCs than they had before the experiment. Students who read opposing passages attributed to physicians made greater negative shifts in their attitudes than students who read opposing passages attributed to magazines. Students who read supporting passages attributed to physicians made greater positive shifts than students who read supporting passages attributed to magazines. Opposing passages had a greater impact than supporting passages. No significant differences were observed in reference to the traditional and nontraditional variable. These findings indicate that despite the growing discontentment with the medical professions, especially among women who are concerned with the negative side effects of OCs, physician are still more influential in shaping attitudes than womenHs magazines, even feminist magazines. Males were included in the study because women are often influenced by their male partners in the choice of a contraceptive. Male subjects were much more likely to be influenced by the passages than females. Previous studies have found that individuals who are less involved in an issue can more easily be persuaded to alter their attitudes than individuals with a strong involvement in the issue. The statistical information presented in the passages was similar to the type of information contained on OC packages. The fact that this information could be interpreted both negatively and positively and the fact that these interpretations were accepted by the subjects, raises many questions about how the information provided by the manufacturers is interpreted by the women who read the information.
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