Open Access Publications

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Open access publications by faculty, postdocs, and graduate students in the Department of Communications.


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    Comparison of Sales From Vending Machines With 4 Different Food and Beverage Messages: A Randomized Trial
    (Jama Network Open, 2024-05-08) Gibson, Laura A.; Stephens-Shields, Alisa J.; Hua, Sophia V.; Orr, Jennifer A.; Lawman, Hannah G.; Bleich, Sara N.; Volpp, Kevin G.; Bleakley, Amy; Thorndike, Anne N.; Roberto, Christina A.
    Importance Point-of-sale food messaging can encourage healthier purchases, but no studies have directly compared multiple interventions in the field. Objective To examine which of 4 food and beverage messages would increase healthier vending machine purchases. Design, Setting, and Participants This randomized trial assessed 13 months (February 1, 2019, to February 29, 2020) of vending sales data from 267 machines and 1065 customer purchase assessments from vending machines on government property in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Data analysis was performed from March 5, 2020, to November 8, 2022. Interventions Study interventions were 4 food and beverage messaging systems: (1) beverage tax posters encouraging healthy choices because of the Philadelphia tax on sweetened drinks; (2) green labels for healthy products; (3) traffic light labels: green (healthy), yellow (moderately healthy), or red (unhealthy); or (4) physical activity equivalent labels (minutes of activity to metabolize product calories). Main Outcomes and Measures Sales data were analyzed separately for beverages and snacks. The main outcomes analyzed at the transaction level were calories sold and the health status (using traffic light criteria) of each item sold. Additional outcomes were analyzed at the monthly machine level: total units sold, calories sold, and units of each health status sold. The customer purchase assessment outcome was calories purchased per vending trip. Results Monthly sales data came from 150 beverage and 117 snack vending machines, whereas 1065 customers (558 [52%] male) contributed purchase assessment data. Traffic light labels led to a 30% decrease in the mean monthly number of unhealthy beverages sold (mean ratio [MR], 0.70; 95% CI, 0.55-0.88) compared with beverage tax posters. Physical activity labels led to a 34% (MR, 0.66; 95% CI, 0.51-0.87) reduction in the number of unhealthy beverages sold at the machine level and 35% (MR, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.50-0.86) reduction in mean calories sold. Traffic light labels also led to a 30-calorie reduction (b = −30.46; 95% CI, −49.36 to −11.56) per customer trip in the customer purchase analyses compared to physical activity labels. There were very few significant differences for snack machines. Conclusions and Relevance In this 13-month randomized trial of 267 vending machines, the traffic light and physical activity labels encouraged healthier beverage purchases, but no change in snack sales, compared with a beverage tax poster. Corporations and governments should consider such labeling approaches to promote healthier beverage choices. Trial Registration Identifier: NCT06260176
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    Gender Moderates the Relationship Between Avatar Customization and Enjoyment in Popular Video Games
    (Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 2024-03-08) Devlin, M. Marie; Ellithorpe, Morgan E.; Oittinen, Erin
    Using online survey methods (n = 153), this study investigates whether exposure to different levels of customization in games will increase the experiences of enjoyment, both directly and indirectly, through the experience of avatar embodiment, as well as whether these relationships are influenced by gender identity. Results indicate a positive relationship between level of exposure to customization and enjoyment for women-identified participants. These outcomes may provide insight into gendered preference in gaming, potentially providing an avenue by which to make games more inclusive to women gamers.
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    A Reflection on the Relationship Between Place and Health: Understanding Undergraduate Student Experiences and Priorities During the COVID-19 Pandemic
    (Delaware Journal of Public Health, 2022-08) Rao, Abhigna; Hoffman, Lindsay; Bleakley, Amy; Karpyn, Allison
    Environment and setting have a large influence on matters of population health, and college is a critical place for students, shaping both health and education. College students across the nation were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and changes at universities left many anxious, isolated, and coping with social, emotional, and educational impacts. Objective: To perform a data analysis of the qualitative responses garnered through the Student Return to Campus Survey administered at the University of Delaware (UD) in Spring 2020, and to identify common themes of student experiences and priorities during the pandemic years to inform future recommendations for health crisis management. Methods: The study utilized secondary data analysis from an online student experience survey of 2,941 Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior students from the 2020-2021 academic year. Results: Qualitative analysis revealed a set of common outstanding themes influencing the college pandemic experience, including: Quality and Accessibility of Education in a Virtual Learning Environment; Quality of Student Life; Mental Health During the Pandemic; Thoughts and Attitudes About Vaccination Policies, Masking, Testing, and COVID Guidelines; Priorities and Considerations About the Return to Campus; and Overall Feelings About the Pandemic at UD. Conclusions: Student experiences were influenced by academic, social, emotional, and financial factors, which were often described with great intensity, and were at times contradictory. Students emphasized struggles with transitioning to and with virtual learning, the quality of campus resources, financial responsibilities, family health, and personal health. The results also shed light on the importance of communication with the campus community and the desire for students to express opinions during a crisis. Health Policy Implications: The results of this study have implications for crisis management for college campuses and planning for future responses to unanticipated events and ongoing COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
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    How intention to join an Alzheimer's participant recruitment registry differs by race, ethnicity, sex, and family history: Results from a national survey of US adults
    (Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, 2023-05-19) Langbaum, Jessica B.; Maloney, Erin; Hennessy, Michael; Harkins, Kristin; Karlawish, Jason; Nosheny, Rachel L.; Bleakley, Amy
    INTRODUCTION Alzheimer's-focused participant recruitment registries are tools for accelerating enrollment into studies, however, registry members are primarily White women. METHODS We conducted a national online survey of 1501 adults ages 50–80, oversampling for Black and Hispanic/Latino respondents, assessing intention to join a generic “brain health” registry and to join a registry that required specific tasks. RESULTS Intention to join a registry was low (M 3.48, SD 1.77), and lower than intention to join a registry requiring specific tasks. Intention was greatest for registries requiring completing surveys (M 4.70, SD 1.77). Differences in intention were primarily between White women and Black women; differences between other groups were limited to specific tasks required. DISCUSSION The results indicate uncertainty about what a registry is, its purpose, and/or the concept of “brain health.” Using the Reasoned Action Approach (RAA) to develop evidence-based outreach messages describing a registry and required tasks may increase diversity.
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    The Effects of Mobile Device Use and Presence on Perceptions of a Conversation Partner
    (Western Journal of Communication, 2023-05-09) Caplan, Scott E.; Courtright, John A.
    This study examined the effects of mobile device use, and its mere presence, on in-person conversations. The study utilized an experimental design to replicate and advance existing scholarship on the impact of co-present device use and mere device presence on a conversation. This study examined how the presence of an unused device may hinder conversation, and the results did not replicate the mere presence effect. The study found participants reacted negatively to a confederate’s phone use, regardless of whether it was self- or externally initiated.
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    Media Use and Political Trust in Kenya: Media Malaise or Virtuous Circle?
    (International Journal of Communication, 2023) Kipkoech, Gilbert
    Although there is a large corpus of research on the relationship between media use and political trust, this scholarship mainly comes from the experiences of audiences in the West and Confucian Asia. The current study departs from these contexts by investigating the association between news media exposure and political trust in a growing African democracy—Kenya. Hierarchical regressions analyses were conducted using data from a national representative sample (N = 2,400). The findings show that news media use and particularly television news use is negatively related to political trust while newspaper reading, listening to the radio, and digital news use do not predict confidence in political actors. Moreover, political performance and perceived corruption significantly moderate this relationship while subjective economic evaluations do not moderate the hypothesized relationship.
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    The Consumption of Animal and Plant Foods in Areas of High Prevalence of Stroke and Colorectal Cancer
    (Nutrients, 2023-02-16) Mayfield, Kellie E.; Plasencia, Julie; Ellithorpe, Morgan; Anderson, Raeda K.; Wright, Nicole C.
    Diets of red and processed meat have been reported as important risk factors for developing colorectal cancer. Given the racial and ethnic differences in the incidence of colorectal cancer, patterns of food consumption, and areas of residence, particularly in the South, more data is needed on the relationship between residing in a high stroke area, colorectal cancer incidence levels, and red meat and processed meat consumption. We created online surveys to ascertain meat, red meat, and healthy food consumption levels. We used OLS regression to evaluate the association between residence in Stroke Belt states and colorectal cancer incidence quartiles with food consumption. We further used path analysis using structural equation modeling to evaluate if age, sex, race/ethnicity, income, and comorbidity index mediated the association between residence in the eight-state Stroke Belt, colorectal cancer incidence groups, and meat consumption. Our sample included 923 participants, with 167 (18.1%) residing in the Stroke Belt and 13.9% being in the highest colorectal cancer incidence group. The findings show that residing in a Stroke Belt state is predictive of the consumption of overall meat 0.93 more days per week or red meat 0.55 more days per week compared to those not residing in a Stroke Belt state. These data can be used to develop future diet interventions in these high-risk areas to reduce rates of colorectal cancer and other negative health outcomes.
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    Charlottesville, January 6 and Incitement: Can Civil Conspiracy Laws Permit an End-Run around Brandenburg v. Ohio?
    (Communication Law Review, 2022) Dee, Juliet
    In this article we analyze how courts have applied the federal Anti-Riot Act, the Brandenburg test for incitement, and civil conspiracy laws to two events: 1) the 2017 Unite the Right march in Charlottesville, Virginia, and 2) the January 6, 2021 insurrection and the storming of the U.S. Capitol. The thesis of this article is that civil conspiracy laws will be more effective for plaintiffs seeking redress of grievances against Donald Trump for the January 6, 2021 insurrection than will invoking the federal Anti-Riot Act because the Brandenburg test’s requirement of proving a speaker’s intent to incite violence is too steep a hill to climb. When plaintiffs file civil conspiracy suits, there is no guarantee that they will prevail. Whether they win or lose, however, they may be trying to turn a civil trial into a public forum in order to focus society’s attention on grievous wrongs that they have suffered.
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    Generalized Problematic Internet Use Scale 2 (GPIUS 2)
    (Computers in Human Behavior, 2010-04-03) Caplan, Scott E.
    This study tested an updated cognitive-behavioral model of generalized problematic Internet use and reports results of a confirmatory analysis of the Generalized Problematic Internet Use Scale 2 (GPIUS2). Overall, the results indicated that a preference for online social interaction and use of the Internet for mood regulation, predict deficient self-regulation of Internet use (i.e., compulsive Internet use and a cognitive preoccupation with the Internet). In turn, deficient self-regulation was a significant predictor of the extent to which one’s Internet use led to negative outcomes. Results indicated the model fit the data well and variables in the model accounted for 27% of the variance in mood regulation scores, 65% of variance in participants’ deficient self-regulation scores, and 61% of variance in the negative outcome scores.
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    Media Use, Interpersonal Communication, and Attitudes Toward Artificial Intelligence
    (Science Communication, 2022-10-17) Brewer, Paul R.; Bingaman, James; Paintsil, Ashley; Wilson, David C.; Dawson, Wyatt
    This study examines how members of the public frame artificial intelligence (AI) along with how news use predicts “frames in mind” for AI. The study also tests whether news use, science fiction viewing, and discussing technology influence attitudes toward AI independently and in conjunction with one another. The analyses use data from a nationally representative online panel survey. Respondents invoked social progress and Pandora’s box frames for AI, and technology news use predicted mentioning each frame. Use of technology news also predicted change in support for AI, while science fiction viewing and discussing technology were conditionally related to such change.
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    Factors associated with COVID-19 masking behavior: an application of the Health Belief Model
    (Health Education Research, 2022-10-18) White, Allie; Maloney, Erin; Boehm, Michele; Bleakley, Amy; Langbaum, Jessica
    Wearing a face mask is effective in minimizing the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) among unvaccinated individuals and preventing severe illness among the vaccinated. Country, state and local guidelines promote, and at times mandate, mask-wearing despite it being publicly perceived as an individual’s choice. Guided by the Health Belief Model (HBM), structural equation modeling was used to analyze longitudinal data in a sample of US adults aged 18–49 years to identify constructs that contribute to face mask-wearing. Results indicated that perceived COVID-19 severity, perceived masking benefits and self-efficacy were positively associated with masking behavior, and masking barriers were negatively associated with masking behavior. Perceived susceptibility to COVID-19 and cues to action were nonsignificant correlates of masking behavior. These results’ theoretical and practical implications contribute to the literature on the HBM and the COVID-19 pandemic. Future directions and limitations are discussed.
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    Athletes Drink Gatorade: DMA Advertising Expenditures, Ad Recall, and Athletic Identity Influence Energy and Sports Drink Consumption
    (Health Communication, 2022-10-10) Ellithorpe, Morgan E.; Bleakley, Amy; Hennessy, Michael; Jordan, Amy; Stevens, Robin; Maloney, Erin
    Understanding why sports and energy drinks remain increasingly popular among adolescents despite declines in other sugar sweetened beverages is critical. This study points to memory for advertising exposure and adolescent athletic identity as two aspects that together help to explain consumption. An online survey of U.S. adolescents aged 14–18 (n = 503) was combined with Nielsen data for television and social media advertising expenditures by sports and energy drink brands in participants’ designated market areas (DMAs). Advertisement recall mediates the relationship between social media DMA expenditures and sports and energy drink consumption. Recall for television advertisements is related to consumption but is unrelated to television DMA expenditures. Athletic identity moderated the relationship between recall and consumption such that consumption increased as both recall and athletic identity increased, suggesting a role for motivated memory and motivated processing of ad messages based on athletic identity consistent with the limited capacity model of motivated media message processing. Based on these results, we conclude that effectiveness of expenditures in influencing behavior is dependent upon both ad recall and ad relevance, and that athletic identity is an important factor in ad effectiveness in the context of sports and energy drinks advertising.
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    Nonverbal immediacy cues and impression formation in video therapy
    (Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 2022-08-01) Pfender, Emily; Caplan, Scott
    The increased use of video-mediated communication (VMC) due to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to widespread acceptance of mediated healthcare appointments. Mental health care is one area in which researchers might examine the effects of VMC. Therefore, the current study employed an experiment to test the relative influence of video therapists’ eye contact and gesture on a patient. Each participant was assigned to one of the four possible video conditions using a 2 (Gestures present versus absent) x 2 (Eye contact present versus absent) factorial design. Study participants (n= 359) rated actors portraying themselves as video therapists on items related to impression formation (i.e. likable, warm, understanding). Findings suggest that participants in the eye contact condition reported more positive impressions than in the no eye contact condition. Similarly, participants in the gesture condition reported more positive impressions than in the no gesture condition. However, gestures had a larger effect on impression formation than eye contact, and there was no interaction effect considering the combined impact of gestures and eye contact. These results contribute to understanding how nonverbal cues impact health outcomes in VMC.
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    Would they save me, too? Victim race recall when the hero is Black vs. White and its influence on expectations of reciprocity
    (Media Psychology, 2022-05-22) Ellithorpe, Morgan E.; Holt, Lanier F.; Ewoldsen, David R.
    Bounded Generalized Reciprocity (BGR) hypothesizes that expectations of reciprocity provide the foundation for ingroup favoritism and outgroup derogation. These expectations can be influenced by interaction with outgroup members, including vicarious interaction through media. This analysis examines how non-Black participants view helping behavior by Black individuals, and how their interpretations of helping scenarios influence intergroup attitudes. Participants (n= 211) were randomly assigned to view a news clip in which a Black or White hero saves someone White, or whose race was not portrayed. When viewing a clip with an ambiguous victim, participants were significantly more likely to report that the victim was not White when the hero was Black – indicating an expectation of helping behavior between Whites and Blacks. However, when a Black hero saved an unambiguously White victim, participants were more accurate in their recall. Victim race recall and hero race interacted to predict future reciprocity expectations, such that Black heroes saving a victim recalled as White (regardless of accuracy) resulted in increased positive reciprocity expectations. Positive reciprocity then predicted motivation to avoid prejudice and prejudiced attitudes. These results have implications for how media depictions of helping behaviors may impact intergroup beliefs and attitudes.
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    I’m Lovin’ It: How Fast Food Advertising Influences Meat-Eating Preferences
    (Journal of Health Communication, 2022-05-02) Ellithorpe, Morgan E.; Zeldes, Geraldine; Hall, Elizabeth Dorrance; Chavez, Manuel; Takahashi, Bruno; Bleakley, Amy; Plasencia, Julie
    Overconsumption of red and processed meat is associated with a multitude of negative health outcomes. Previous research shows exposure to advertising messaging can influence dietary behaviors but research on the influence of meat advertising on diet, specifically, is scant. Theoretically informed by the Reasoned Action Approach, the present experiment randomly assigned participants to view a version of a print McDonald’s advertisement that included meat imagery (a Big Mac), non-meat imagery (French fries), or no food (just the McDonalds’ logo and slogan), which acted as a control. An online survey in the United States included 514 U.S. adults (Mage = 51 years). Participants exposed to meat imagery compared to the non-meat imagery reported a higher desire to eat meat. The meat imagery and control conditions were also significantly associated with increased cognitive accessibility of meat concepts, compared to when respondents were shown the no-meat condition. Desire to eat meat, but not the cognitive accessibility of meat concepts, was significantly associated with attitude, normative pressure, and perceived behavioral control for avoiding eating meat one day per week; these constructs predicted intention and willingness to avoid meat. Results indicate that exposure to meat imagery in advertising does have the potential to influence meat consumption behavior and also has implications for the use of meat imagery in persuasive messaging for public health campaigns.
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    Student intentions to engage instructors in mental health-related conversations: An application of the theory of planned behavior
    (Journal of American College Health, 2022-04-06) White, Allie; Ball, Hannah; LaBelle, Sara
    Objective: Considering that college students experience mental health issues and college counseling centers are overwhelmed, this study identifies instructors as a potential mental health resource for students. This study utilizes the theory of planned behavior to investigate the relationship between students’ attitudes, injunctive and descriptive norms, perceived behavioral control, and their intentions to engage their instructors in mental health conversations. Participants: Participants were 311 undergraduate students at a small, private university in Southern California. Methods: Participants were recruited through a Communication subject pool and completed an online survey about engaging instructors in these conversations. Results: Results of a regression analysis indicate that all theoretical constructs positively predict students’ intentions to discuss mental health with an instructor. Conclusions: By providing insight into students’ intentions to utilize instructors as mental health resources on campus, these findings yield practical implications for better preparing universities and their faculty to engage in students’ mental health.
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    Problematic Video Gaming Is Associated With Poor Sleep Quality, Diet Quality, and Personal Hygiene
    (Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 2022-03-14) Ellithorpe, Morgan E.; Meshi, Dar; Tham, Samuel M.
    Problematic gamers may focus on game-play so much that they forego regular daily activities in favor of more game time, leading to health impairments. Because problematic gamers often desire to return to the game as quickly as possible, they are known to make myopic choices that favor short-term benefits at the cost of long-term gains. The present research examines certain health behaviors that are likely to suffer from such myopic decision-making: sleep quality, diet quality, and personal hygiene. Although other research has assessed the relationships between gaming behavior and each of these health behaviors separately, they are likely to be intercorrelated—representing a pattern of unhealthy decision-making. To achieve our research goal of understanding how problematic gaming might be associated with these health behaviors, we surveyed a university-based sample (n = 354), including targeted sampling of high-intensity gamers. We assessed problematic gaming’s relationship with poorer sleep quality, diet quality, and personal hygiene behaviors. Our results reveal a significant association between problematic gaming and all 3 negative health behaviors. Negative health behaviors associated with problematic gaming may be a potential sign that there is a behavioral addiction issue. Interventions should consider a pattern of such behaviors along with gaming behavior to encourage healthier behavioral choices and game-play.
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    The complicated impact of media use before bed on sleep: Results from a combination of objective EEG sleep measurement and media diaries
    (Journal of Sleep Research, 2022-02-08) Ellithorpe, Morgan E.; Ulusoy, Ezgi; Eden, Allison; Hahn, Lindsay; Yang, Chia-Lun; Tucker, Robin M.
    Media use has been linked to sleep disturbance, but the results are inconsistent. This study explores moderating conditions. A media diary study with 58 free-living adults measured the time spent with media before bed, the location of use, and multitasking. Electroencephalography (EEG) captured bedtime, total sleep time, and the percent of time spent in deep (Stage N3), and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Media use in the hour before sleep onset was associated with an earlier bedtime. If the before bed use did not involve multitasking and was conducted in bed, that use was also associated with more total sleep time. Media use duration was positively associated with (later) bedtime and negatively associated with total sleep time. Sleep quality, operationalised as the percent of total sleep time spent in N3 and REM sleep, was unaffected by media use before bed. Bedtime media use might not be as detrimental for sleep as some previous research has shown. Important contextual variables moderate the relationship, such as location, multitasking, and session length.
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    Helping and Hurting on the TV Screen: Bounded Generalized Reciprocity and Interracial Group Expectations
    (Media Psychology, 2022-02-01) Holt, Lanier F.; Ellithorpe, Morgan E.; Ewoldsen, David R.; Velez, John
    Two survey studies, one with a college sample (Study 1, n = 245) and one with a national U.S. adult sample (Study 2, n = 590) examined how media messages can influence attitudes toward Black people in the U.S. A novel contribution is the role of Bounded Generalized Reciprocity, or the belief that members of an outgroup are likely to return a favor (positive), or enact retribution for a wrong (negative) as a factor in the relationship between television use and attitudes. Study 1 (college student sample) found support for a relationship between lifetime television exposure and negative attitudes, mediated by negative reciprocity beliefs. Study 2 (U.S. adult sample) found support for an ambivalence effect, where lifetime television exposure was associated with increases in both positive and negative reciprocity beliefs. This indicates that reciprocity beliefs can be cultivated similarly to other kinds of beliefs (e.g., crime frequency, mean world), and that these beliefs have downstream relationships with racial attitudes. The direction in which they are influenced by television use remains an open question, and likely depends on TV content patterns over time.
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    Television News Media Consumption and Misperceptions about COVID-19 among US Populations at High Risk for Severe Health Outcomes Early in the Pandemic
    (Health Communication, 2022-01-20) Maloney, Erin K.; Bleakley, Amy; Young, Dannagal G.; Silk, Kami J.; Crowley, John P.; Lambe, Jennifer L.
    Research indicates that misperceptions that become part of people’s initial mental models about an issue tend to persist and influence their attitudes even after the misperception has been corrected. Recent work on evolving mental models suggests that communication efforts about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath may be improved by crafting messages that acknowledge biases and misunderstandings about the virus and other infectious diseases that may remain among members of the target audience. This study was designed to provide insight into such biases by: (1) establishing salient categories of COVID-related misperceptions in the earliest months of the pandemic in the United States among (a) the general population, and (b) demographic sub-populations at high risk of severe health outcomes; (2) identifying demographic predictors of misperceptions; and (3) examining the relationship between consumption of different television news outlets and agreement with misperceptions about COVID-19. A national sample of 1,000 adults in the United States (48.1% male; M age = 47.32, SD = 18.01; 72.9% White/Caucasian, 14.3% Black/African American, 15.9% Hispanic/Latinx) completed a survey between March 19 and March 25, 2020. Results identify prevalent classes of salient early COVID-19 misperceptions. Adjusting for numerous covariates, data indicated individuals over the age of 60 held the fewest COVID-related misperceptions among various demographic sub-populations, misperceptions were most prevalent among Black respondents, and increased consumption of television network news was associated with lower levels of misperception. Consumption of some 24-hour news networks (FOX and MSNBC) were significant positive correlates of misperceptions.
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