A Problem Ignored: Dilution and Negation of Consumer Information by Antifactual Content



    1. Ivan L. Preston is Journal Communications Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison. He thanks anonymous reviewers for helpful comments.
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  • This is the first of two refereed papers on this topic. The second, to appear in the Summer 2003 issue, follows up with more specific proposals for incorporating antifactual claims into theories, studies, policies, and actions involving consumer information.


Current conceptions of consumer information do not consider types that may dilute or detract from facts available to consumers about products and services. The article discusses the nature and incidence of such antifactual content, identifies research and public policy that ignores the content but could benefit from recognizing it, and describes a role for the content in conceptualizing and better assessing consumer information, in order to provide researchers, regulators, advertisers, and consumers with more accurate evaluations.