IJERPH, Vol. 19, Pages 6234: The Impact of Information Presentation and Cognitive Dissonance on Processing Systematic Review Summaries: A Randomized Controlled Trial on Bicycle Helmet Legislation (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health)
Background: Summaries of systematic reviews are a reference method for the dissemination of research evidence on the effectiveness of public health interventions beyond the scientific community. Motivated reasoning and cognitive dissonance may interfere with readers’ ability to process the information included in such summaries. Methods: We conducted a web experiment on a panel of university-educated North Americans (N = 259) using a systematic review of the effectiveness of bicycle helmet legislation as a test case. The outcome variables were the perceived tentativeness of review findings and attitude toward bicycle helmet legislation. We manipulated two types of uncertainty: (i) deficient uncertainty (inclusion vs. non-inclusion of information on limitations of the studies included in the review) and (ii) consensus uncertainty (consensual findings showing legislation effectiveness vs. no evidence of effectiveness). We also examined whether reported expertise in helmet legislation and the frequency of wearing a helmet while cycling interact with the experimental factors. Results: None of the experimental manipulations had a main effect on the perceived tentativeness. The presentation of consensual efficacy findings had a positive main effect on the attitude toward the legislation. Self-reported expertise had a significant main effect on the perceived tentativeness, and exposing participants with reported expertise to results showing a lack of evidence of efficacy increased their favorable attitude toward the legislation. Participants’ helmet use was positively associated with their attitude toward the legislation (but not with perceived tentativeness). Helmet use did not interact with the experimental manipulations. Conclusions: Motivated reasoning and cognitive dissonance influence a reader’s ability to process information contained in a systematic review summary.