To Your Health: Self-Regulation of Health Behavior Through Selective Exposure to Online Health Messages


Corresponding author: Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick; e-mail:


Reaching target audiences is of crucial importance for the success of health communication campaigns, but individuals may avoid health messages if they challenge their beliefs or behaviors. A lab study (N = 419) examined effects of messages' consistency with participants' behavior and source credibility on selective exposure for 4 health lifestyle topics. Drawing on self-regulation theory and dissonance theory, 3 motivations were examined: self-bolstering, self-motivating, and self-defending. Prior behavior predicted selective exposure across topics, reflecting self-bolstering. Standard-behavior discrepancies also affected selective exposure, consistent with self-motivating rather than self-defending. Selective exposure to high-credibility sources advocating for organic food, fruits and vegetable consumption, exercise, and limiting coffee all fostered accessibility of related standards, whereas messages from low-credibility sources showed no such impact.