Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


Inoculation Information Against Contagious Disease Misperception about Flu with Heuristic vs. Systematic Information and Expert vs. Non-Expert Source

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Media and Communication

First Advisor

Gi Woong Yun (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Laura Landry-Meyer (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Sung-Yeon Park (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Srinivas Melkote (Committee Member)


This study applied the heuristic-systematic model (HSM) and inoculation theory in order to explore risk perceptions of flu and the flu vaccination. The HSM explains individual’s information processing as an antecedent to attitude. Inoculation theory deals with how and why existing attitudes can be strengthened to resist counterarguments when confronted with persuasive messages. This study examined how people process different types of risk information, and how risk campaigns can inoculate people against attacks to preexisting beliefs.

This study applied a 2 (Message framing: heuristic information message vs. systematic information message) by 2 (expert source vs. non-expert source) online experiment. The experiment was conducted at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in Bowling Green, Ohio. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the four conditions: (1) heuristic information message from expert source, (2) heuristic information message from non-expert source, (3) systematic information message from expert source, and (4) systematic information message from non-expert source. In order to measure the effect of heuristic and systematic information messages, this study was conducted in two phases. In Phase 1, participants received one of the manipulated messages. The manipulated messages were presented as an inoculation message against flu myths. After one week from Phase 1, Phase 2 was conducted and provided an attack message about the side effects of the flu vaccination. Participants were asked to answer a series of items measuring their attitudes and behaviors towards the flu vaccination.

This study found that different types of media had different effects on the risk perception of flu illness and benefit perception of the flu vaccination. Risk perception of flu illness was positively related to benefit perception of the flu vaccination. This study also found that heuristic messages affected risk perception of the flu vaccination, but not flu illness perception. Although this study found mixed results of inoculation effects, the heuristic message from an expert source generated higher resistance against the attack message. Implications of these findings are discussed. Limitations and future research also are addressed.