Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-4-2022

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Department

Nutrition and Hospitality Management

First Advisor

Melinda Valliant

Second Advisor

Emmy Parkes

Third Advisor

Ellen Ossorio

Relational Format

Dissertation/Thesis

Abstract

Social media has become a part of everyday life in our society and has the capability to reach billions, across age groups. Research has shown that there is a direct link between the widespread access to social media and the amount of misinformation that is circulating. In fact, unqualified and uneducated individuals share believable but inaccurate nutrition posts. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to determine if college students can distinguish the difference between nutrition misinformation or factual nutrition information when presented on social media. Male and female college students (>18 years old) from two classes (nutrition and biology) were presented with a series of posts from either Instagram or Tik Tok. Sixteen were nutrition misinformation posts and four evidenced based posts, by Registered Dietitians (RD). Participants were tasked to rank the accuracy of each post on a Likert scale from 1 to 5. A total of 210 college students (42 nutrition) completed the study. There was significant mean difference between males and females (58.5±7.0 and 55.8±7.8, p=0.002), respectively, with females misidentifying the posts as factual more frequently. Additionally, there was a significant mean difference between the biology and nutrition class (57.6±7.1 and 51.3±8.0, p=0.000), respectively, with biology students misidentifying the posts as factual more frequently. More participants answered incorrectly (41.4%) than participants who answered correctly (35.3%), while 23% were neutral. These findings illustrate how easily social media can spread nutrition misinformation and how important it is to educate students on the prevalence of misinformation on the internet.

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