When Media Health Stories Conflict: Test of the Contradictory Health Information Processing (CHIP) Model

Thais M. Zimbres, Robert A. Bell, Lisa M.Soederberg Miller, Jingwen Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Guided by Uncertainty Management Theory, UMT, we tested a model that explicates how uncertainty arising from contradictory health information is managed through information seeking. In an online experiment, 763 U.S. adults were randomly assigned to one of three message conditions: contradictory, non-contradictory, or control. Participants in the contradictory and non-contradictory conditions answered questions about their perceptions of contradiction, issue and decision uncertainty, negative appraisals and emotions, and information-seeking intentions. They also completed measures of several moderator variables, including information overload, intolerance for uncertainty, and health self-efficacy. Baseline levels of issue and decision uncertainty were measured in the control condition. Model tenets were confirmed: perceptions of contradiction led to issue uncertainty which, in turn, prompted cognitive appraisals directly, and indirectly through increased decision uncertainty. The effects of issue and decision uncertainty on information-seeking intentions were mediated by negative appraisals and threat emotions. Individuals with high health self-efficacy and positive outcome expectations of information search were more likely to manage uncertainty through information seeking. These results support the use of the CHIP model when perceptions of contradiction and decision uncertainty need to be accounted for, while also validating UMT for its original purposes. Model refinements and implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)460-472
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Health Communication
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Library and Information Sciences


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