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Preadolescents' perceptions of AIDS before and after Earvin Magic Johnson's announcement.


Compared sixth graders' AIDS concerns before and after Magic Johnson announced that he tested HIV-positive. Examined perceptions of self/other vulnerability (optimistic bias) using questionnaires (Study A) and interviews (Study B). Also examined AIDS worries mentioned in open-ended interviews (Study C). Studies A and B revealed a substantial degree of optimistic bias. Study C showed that AIDS is a prime concern of school-age students, mentioned under free or context-cued conditions by about 50%. There was little detectable effect of the publicity; the sole before--after difference in three studies was one increase in self- and other-vulnerability to AIDS--an increase attributable, with marginal significance, only to girls. Discussed implications for health promotion and differences between assessment approaches.

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