The effects of age and gender on optimistic bias and stereotype salience for cardiovascular disease in college students
Kruse, Heather Christine
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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of death within the United States, yet many of its risk factors are largely preventable and begin early in life. College students engage in many unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, binge drinking, and inactivity which may increase their chances of developing CVD. However, research shows that college students may hold an optimistic bias toward developing the disease; that is, they believe that their chances of developing CVD are less than their peers. In addition, stereotypes about who is likely to develop CVD may result in females and young adults underestimating their risk and therefore failing to take precautionary measures. Unfortunately, little is known about how to help individuals develop a more realistic risk appraisal. Research on information processing and Social Learning Theory (SLT) suggest that interventions that provide an individual with knowledge on risk factor modification and modeling may be effective at reducing the salience of common stereotypes about who is likely to develop the disease (i.e., “stereotype salience”, a hypothesized correlate of optimistic bias). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of an educational manipulation aimed at reducing optimistic bias and stereotype salience for CVD among college students. Data were collected from a sample of 162 undergraduate students at a midsized Midwestern university. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four vignette conditions to determine if a model's characteristics affected optimistic bias and stereotype salience for CVD. It was hypothesized that individuals randomly assigned to an age and gender consistent condition would have the greatest reduction in scores on optimistic bias and stereotype salience post-intervention. Results indicated that exposure to the manipulation did not lower optimistic bias or stereotype salience for CVD in college students. Other emerging literature suggests that there may be more promising approaches to risk reduction.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Literature review -- Methodology -- Results -- Discussion