Abstract: Does Exposure to News Media Coverage of Anorexia Increase Risk Self-Efficacy (RSE)? A New Measure of Unintended Media Effects

◆ Nehama Lewis, University of Haifa
◆ Hadar Eliash, University of Haifa

In an online experiment using two waves of data collected at a one-month interval, we test a new construct – RSI: Risk Self-Efficacy. RSI is based on self-efficacy (social cognitive theory: Bandura, 1986; 1989; 2004), but captures unintended effects of exposure to information about behaviors that increase personal risk, on reported self-efficacy to perform the risky behaviors. This study tested the effects of exposure to videos about anorexia (n = 358). We compared effects of exposure to videos providing information about behaviors that are performed in order to lose weight (Risk Self Efficacy Information: RSEI), to equivalent videos without this information. These behaviors included calorie restriction and using laxatives, among others. Video messages were adapted from extant news footage and were edited for this study.
Hypothesis: We hypothesized that exposure to RSEI (Risk Self-Efficacy Information) would lead to increased agreement that the behaviors described are effective for weight loss (Overall Risk Self-Efficacy), which would increase self-efficacy to perform these behaviors oneself to lose weight (Risk Self-Efficacy for oneself).
Participants: Participants (N = 419) were women ages 18-25, recruited through an online panel (M = 22.48, SD = 2.05). The majority of participants self-identified as Jewish (99.13%), and included women who identified as secular (40.5%), traditional (22.8%), and orthodox (36.7%).

Measures - We created two scales:
Risk Self-Efficacy overall: A scale (which formed one factor, with good internal reliability) assessing agreement with the effectiveness of the 6 behaviors for weight loss.
Risk Self-Efficacy for oneself: A scale (which formed one factor, with good internal reliability) measuring participants own self-efficacy to perform the 6 behaviors to lose weight.
Design and procedure. Participants provided informed consent and were randomly assigned to view one of the 6 video messages. Videos were of similar duration (3-4 minutes each), and featured the same information, besides manipulated factors. Participants responded to demographic items, and items related to eating disorders. They viewed the message, and completed measures of RSI overall, and RSI for oneself.
Results: Mediation analyses (using PROCESS) showed a significant effect of exposure to RSEI on RSE overall (B = .39, SE = .15, p < .05), which was positively associated with RSE for oneself (B = .17, SE = .03, p < .001). There was also a significant indirect effect of exposure to RSEI on RSE for self, through RSE overall (B = .07, SE = .03, p < .05 (CI95%: .02, .13), supporting our hypothesis.
Results also showed a significant lagged (n = 238, 66% response rate) indirect effect of exposure to RSEI on RSE for self, through RSE overall (B = .07, SE = .03, p < .05 (CI95%: .02, .15). All analyses controlled for BMI, experimental conditions, and age.
Implications: This study provides evidence to support the utility of a new construct and measures for health communication research. Exposure to media coverage of anorexia may inadvertently increase individual self-efficacy to perform weight-loss behaviors among female viewers. This process is consistent with social learning models, but examines its effects from a new perspective.