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Peter, Christina; Rossmann, Constanze; Keyling, Till (January 2014): Exemplification 2.0: Roles of Direct and Indirect Social Information in Conveying Health Messages Through Social Network Sites. In: Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, and Applications, Vol. 26, No. 1: pp. 19-28
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The Internet in general, and social network sites in particular, provide great potential for communicating health issues. Different forms of online social information, such as user comments and likes, might foster the effectiveness of these communication channels. However, it is unclear whether these types of information affect people’s perceptions and judgments of health issues. Combining exemplification theory with research into online social information, we conducted a 2 × 3 × 2 experiment to address this question. We presented our participants (N = 577) with a discussion of influenza vaccination on mock-up of a Facebook page and varied the direct social information (user comments) and additional indirect social information (comment likes and post likes) given, to assess the impact on individuals’ perceptions of public behavior and risk, and on their personal attitudes and behavioral intentions. Our results showed that the participants relied on direct but not indirect social information when forming judgments.