Presentation on theme: "“His and Her” Heart Attacks: The Effects of Gender Relevance on Women’s Receptiveness to Health-Related Information Abigail L. Riggs, Traci A. Giuliano,"— Presentation transcript:
“His and Her” Heart Attacks: The Effects of Gender Relevance on Women’s Receptiveness to Health-Related Information Abigail L. Riggs, Traci A. Giuliano, Aubrey D. Buckert, and Erin E. Crockett Southwestern University Heart disease is the number one killer of women, yet women often underestimate their actual risk of experiencing a heart attack. The current study hypothesized that women may fail to appreciate their risk of a heart attack because the media’s use of sexist language and male examples leads women to believe that heart disease is primarily a man’s problem. To test this hypothesis, 98 female participants were given an article about heart disease that manipulated the gender of an accompanying picture (male or female) and the inclusiveness of the language used (e.g., using the pronoun “he” versus the pronouns “he or she”). Interestingly, the results showed that whereas women older than 60 were more influenced by male-focused health-related information, younger women appeared to be more responsive to female-focused information. Participants and Procedure Ninety-eight women aged 35 to 92 (M = 61 years, SD = 14) were recruited from social and philanthropic groups in Texas. The sample was predominantly White, with 88% self- identifying as White, 7% as Hispanic, 3% as Native American, and 1% as African American. Design As part of a one-way between-subjects design, participants read one of four hypothetical magazine articles about the warning signs and prevention of heart attacks and then answered questions about the article. One article pictured a man and used he throughout the article, whereas the other three articles pictured a woman and used one of three forms of inclusive language (i.e., he or she, she or he, or she). See below for an example of the he or she condition. Dependent Measures After reading the article, participants indicated: Their general reactions to the article The likelihood of engaging in several health-related behaviors The likelihood that a woman in their community would experience a heart attack and the likelihood of personally experiencing a heart attack Their desire for more information Because participant age varied widely and moderated the results, all analyses were conducted using age as a variable. In addition, because there were no significant differences in participants’ reactions to the three female-relevant conditions (i.e., he or she, she or he, and she), these three conditions were collapsed into a single female-relevant condition for analysis. Therefore, a 2 (Gender Relevance of the Article: Male or Female) x 2 (Age: Up to 60 Years or Over 60 Years) between-subjects ANOVA was used to analyze the data. The results provide initial support for the hypothesis that women may be more responsive to health-related information when it is specifically targeted toward them. The pattern of results obtained from younger women is consistent with Hyde’s (1984) classic study, which showed that individuals do not think of women when reading the generic he. The results also substantiate Stapel, Reicher, and Spears’ (1994) findings that the availability heuristic can affect an individual’s risk perceptions when the available examples are members of a person’s ingroup. Interestingly, although younger women reacted positively to the female-relevant article, older women responded less favorably to the female-relevant article, contradicting our hypothesis. One potential reason is that older women respond differently to sexist language because of the generation in which they were raised. Another possibility is that the female-relevant article may not have appeared equally relevant to women in both age groups because the 51 year-old woman pictured in the female-relevant article was part of the ingroup for women 60 years old and under, but not for women over 60. The findings of the current study have implications for both the media and the medical community. If, as the current findings suggest, the perceived relevance of health-related information influences women’s perceptions of disease and how they judge their need for treatment, then the media and the medical community must be encouraged to be cognizant of such alarming implications in order to protect women’s health. Fortunately, in addition to recent media coverage on the topic, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has initiated a program similar to the Pink Ribbon Campaign called the Red Dress Campaign, which is designed to raise women’s awareness of heart disease. Abstract Introduction MethodResultsConclusion Despite the popularity of the Pink Ribbon Campaign, it is heart disease, not breast cancer, that is the number one killer of American women (American Heart Association, 2002). Heart disease is a health threat that women are less familiar with because it has often been labeled a man’s problem. For example, the media—women’s primary source of health-related information (Meischke et al., 2002)— often portray heart attack victims as male, leading women to primarily remember male examples and consequently to underestimate their own risk. Another reason information about heart disease may seem less relevant to women is because the media’s use of exclusive or “sexist” language, such as the generic he to refer to both men and women, leads individuals to primarily envision men rather than both men and women (e.g., Briere & Lanktree, 1983; Conkright, Flanagan, & Dykes, 2000; Hyde, 1984). The purpose of the current study was to explore how these non-inclusive, male-typical portrayals influence women’s perceptions of heart disease. In general, it was predicted that women would be more likely to change their behavior and would be more interested in receiving additional information after reading an article that appears more relevant to women. As shown in Figure 1, a two-way interaction revealed that younger women were more likely to request a pamphlet after reading the female-relevant article than after reading the male-relevant article, whereas older women were more likely to request a pamphlet after reading the male-relevant article than after reading the female-relevant article. A similar two-way interaction shown in Figure 2 revealed that after reading a male-relevant article, older women were more likely than younger women to indicate intentions to change their health behaviors, whereas both younger and older women had similar reactions to the female- relevant article. Although the article did not significantly affect participants’ personal judgments of risk, there was an interaction between age and article type on risk judgments for a woman in their community. As Figure 3 shows, older women were more likely to rate the heart attack risk of a woman in their community higher after reading the male-relevant article than the female-relevant article, whereas younger women rated a community woman’s risk similarly regardless of the article they read. As predicted, women reacted more positively (e.g., thought it was informative, of good quality, and that it increased their awareness of heart disease) to the female-relevant article (M = 5.8) than to the male- relevant article (M = 5.4).