Selective exposure theory

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Selective exposure is a concept in media and communication research that historically refers to individuals’ tendency to favor information that reinforces pre-existing views while avoiding contradictory information. In contemporary work[1], the term 'selective exposure' coins any bias in exposure to available messages (e.g., men watching more sports than women, or individuals with higher education spending more time with newspaper reading).

Per the historical use of the term, people tend to select specific aspects of exposed information based on their perspective, beliefs, attitudes and decisions. People can determine the information exposed to them and select favorable evidence, while ignoring the unfavorable. This theory has been explored using the cognitive dissonance theory, which suggests information consumers strive for results of cognitive equilibrium. In order to attain this equilibrium, individuals may either reinterpret the information they are exposed to or select information that are consonant with their view.

The premise of selective exposure relies on the assumption that information-seeking behavior continues even after an individual has taken a stance on an issue. Previous information-seeking behavior will be colored by various factors of the issue that is activated during the decision-making process.[2] Thus, selective exposure operates by reinforcing beliefs rather than exposing individuals to a diverse array of viewpoints, which is considered an important aspect of a functioning democracy.[3] There are several factors that persuade one's when making decisions. Physical characteristics, age, and more explain one's personal attributes that hold power when one participants in selective exposure. Furthermore, because information and resources are critical to learning, people decide to stray away from new information because it often conflicts with their own beliefs. Selective exposure influences and engages family, friends, co-workers, and doctors. Media forms such as the internet, television and paper sources are also highly influenced.[4]

Selective exposure has been displayed in various contexts such as self-serving situations and situations where people hold prejudices regarding out-groups, particular opinions, and personal and group-related issues.[5] Perceived usefulness of information, perceived norm of fairness, and curiosity of valuable information are three factors that can counteract selective exposure.[6]

Effect on decision-making[edit]

Individual versus group decision-making[edit]

Selective exposure can affect the decisions people make because people may not be willing to change their views and beliefs. Changing beliefs about one's self, other people, and the world are three variables to why people fear new information.[7] A variety of studies has shown that selective exposure effects can occur in context of both individual and group decision making.[8] Numerous situational variables have been identified that increase the tendency toward selective exposure.[9] Social psychology, specifically, includes research with a variety of situational factors and related psychological processes that eventually persuade the efforts to make a quality decision. Additionally, from a psychological perspective, the effects of selective exposure can both stem from motivational and cognitive accounts.[10] Schulz et al. (2010) investigated whether information searches were determined by subjectively perceived information. More specifically, they studied whether the subject receiving the information and those who made the decisions were persuaded by the subject who provided the information to them. From a cognitive perspective, researchers assume that decision makers seek to find the qualitatively best pieces of decision-relevant information, like appearance. Because decision makers are not able to evaluate the information quality independent of their own position, decision-inconsistent information is systematically tested more critically than decision-consistent information.[11] Therefore, decision-consistent information receives a subjectively perceived quality advantage and is thus preferred over inconsistent information.

Selective exposure enables prevention of gathering new information. Selective exposure is prevalent in both groups of people and individually. In Jonas et al. (2001) empirical studies were done on four different experiments investigating individuals' and groups' decision making. This article suggests that confirmation bias is prevalent in decision making. Those who find new information often draw their attention to areas where they hold personal attachment too. Thus, information with similar expectations or beliefs to the person is a result of this selective exposure theory. Throughout the four experiments done generalization is always considered valid and confirmation bias is always present when seeking new information and making decisions.[12]

Accuracy motivation and defense motivation[edit]

Fischer and Greitemeyer (2010) explored individuals’ decision making in terms of selective exposure to confirmatory information.[13] Selective exposure posed that people make their decisions based on information that is consistent with their decision rather than information that is inconsistent with their decision. Researchers explain that people have the tendency to seek and select information using their integrative model. There are two primary motivation for selective exposure: accuracy motivation and defense motivation. Accuracy motivation explains that one is motivated to be accurate in their decision making and defense motivation explains that one seeks confirmatory information to confirm their beliefs and justify their decisions. Accuracy motivation is not always beneficial during selective exposure and can instead be counterintuitive, increasing the amount of selective exposure. Defense motivation can lead to reduced levels of selective exposure.[14]

Personal attributes[edit]

Selective exposure avoids information inconsistent with one’s beliefs and attitudes. How decisions are made and how relevant information is gathered, are not the only two factors taken into account when making a final decision. Fischer et al. (2010) found it important to consider the information source itself, otherwise explained as the physical being that provided the source of information.[15] Selective exposure research generally neglects the influence of indirect decision-related attributes, such as physical appearance. In Fischer et al. (2010) two studies hypothesized that physically attractive information sources resulted in decision makers to be more selective in searching and reviewing decision-relevant information. Researchers explored the impact of social information and its level of physical attractiveness. The data was then analyzed and found that selective exposure existed for those who needed to make a decision.[16] Therefore, the more attractive an information source was, the more positive and detailed one was with making their decision because factors like one's attractiveness was considered. Physical attractiveness affects one's decision because it increases the perceived quality of information. Physically attractive information sources increased the quality of consistent information needed to make decisions and increased the selective exposure in decision-relevant information, supporting the researchers hypothesis.[17] Both studies concluded that attractiveness is driven by a different selection and evaluation of decision-consistent information. Decision makers allow factors like physical attractiveness affect everyday decisions because of selective exposure.

In another study, selective exposure is defined by the amount of confidence an individual has. People, whether they have a low self-esteem or high self-esteem, are still able to control the amount of selective exposure. Individuals who maintain higher confidence levels reduce the amount of selective exposure.[18] Albarracín and Mitchell (2004) hypothesized that those who displayed higher confidence levels were more willing to seek out information both consistent and inconsistent with their views. The phrase "decision-consistent information" explains the tendency to actively seek decision-relevant information. Selective exposure occurs when individuals search for information and show systematic preferences towards ideas that are consistent, rather than inconsistent, to their beliefs.[19] On the contrary, those who exhibited low levels of confidence were more inclined to examine information that did not agree with their views. The researchers found that in three out of five studies participants showed more confidence and scored high on the Defensive Confidence Scale,[20] meaning that their hypothesis was correct.

Bozo et al. (2009) investigated the anxiety of fearing death and compared it to age in relation to health-promoting behaviors. Researchers analyzed data using the terror management theory. Results found that age had no direct effect to specific behaviors. They found anxiety of death yielding health-promoting behaviors in young adults. When people are reminded of their own death, it causes stress and anxiety, but eventually leads to positive changes in their health behaviors. Conclusions supported that older adults were consistently better at promoting and practicing good health behaviors, without thinking about death, compared to young adults.[21] Young adults were less motivated to change and practice health-promoting behaviors because they used the selective exposure to confirm their prior beliefs. Selective exposure creates barriers between the behaviors in different ages, but there is no specific age in which people change their behaviors.

Theories accounting for selective exposure[edit]

Cognitive dissonance theory[edit]

From a motivational account, the cognitive dissonance theory suggests that decision makers systematically prefer supporting information in order to reduce the aversive motivational state of dissonance. Decision makers are unable to evaluate information quality independently on their own (Fischer, Jonas, Dieter & Kastenmüller, 2008).[22] When there is a conflict between pre-existing views and information encountered, individuals will experience an unpleasant and self-threatening state of aversive-arousal which will motivate people to reduce it through selective exposure, preferring information that supports one's made decision and neglecting conflicting information. Individuals will then exhibit confirmatory information tendencies to defend their positions and reach the goal of dissonance reduction.[23]

In Festinger’s theory, there are two basic hypotheses:

1) The existence of dissonance, being psychologically uncomfortable, will motivate the person to try to reduce the dissonance and achieve consonance

2) When dissonance is present, in addition to trying to reduce it, the person will actively avoid situations and information which would likely increase the dissonance (Festinger, 1957).[24]

Cognitive dissonance also occurs when people feel an attachment to and responsibility for a decision, position or behavior. It increases the motivation to justify their positions through selective exposure to confirmatory information (Fischer, 2011). In an experiment that employed commitment manipulations, it impacts perceived decision certainty. Participants were free to choose attitude-consistent and inconsistent information to write an essay. Those who wrote an attitude-consistent essay showed higher levels of confirmatory information search (Fischer, 2011) [25] The levels and magnitude of dissonance also play a role. Selective exposure to consistent information is likely under certain levels of dissonance. At high levels, a person is expected to seek out information that increases dissonance because the best strategy to reduce dissonance would be to alter one's attitude or decision (Smith et al., 2008) [26]

However, subsequent research on selective exposure within dissonance theory produced weak empirical support, until dissonance theory was revised and methods conducive to measuring selective exposure were improved.[27] To date, scholars still argue that empirical results supporting the selective exposure hypothesis are still mixed, possibly due to the issues used in experimental studies[28] or the failure to simulate an authentic media environment in experiments.[29]

According to Festinger, the motivation to seek or avoid information depends on the magnitude of dissonance experienced (Smith et al., 2008).[30] It is observed that there is a tendency for people to seek new information, or select information to supports their beliefs so as to reduce dissonance. There exists three possibilities which will affect extent of dissonance (Festinger, 1957).[31]

  • Relative absence of dissonance.

When little or no dissonance exists, there is little or no motivation to seek new information. In an example, when there is an absence of dissonance, the lack of motivation to attend or avoid a lecture on 'The Advantages of Automobiles with Very High Horsepower Engines' will be independent of whether the car he has just purchased had a high or low horsepower engine. However, it is important to note the difference between the situation when there is no dissonance and one where the information has no relevance to present or future behavior. For the latter, accidental exposure, which he does not avoid, will not introduce any dissonance; while for the former, who also does not avoid information, dissonance may be accidentally introduced.

  • The presence of moderate amounts of dissonance.

The existence of dissonance and consequent pressure to reduce it will lead to the seeking out of information, which will lead people to avoid information which will increase dissonance. However, when faced with a potential source of information, there will be ambiguous cognition which he will react in terms of his expectations about it. If he expects the cognition to increase dissonance, he will avoid it. In the event that one's expectations are proven wrong, the attempt at dissonance reduction may result in increasing it instead. It may in turn lead to a situation of active avoidance.

  • The presence of extremely large amounts of dissonance.

If two cognitive elements exist in a dissonant relationship, the magnitude of dissonance matches the resistance to change. If the dissonance becomes greater than the resistance to change, then the least resistant elements of cognition will be changed, reducing dissonance. When dissonance is near to the limit, one may actively seek out, and expose himself to dissonance-increasing information. If he can increase dissonance to the point where it is greater than the resistance to change, he will change the cognitive elements involved, reducing or even eliminating dissonance. Once dissonance is increased sufficiently, one may bring himself to change, hence eliminating all dissonance.[32]

The reduction in cognitive dissonance following a decision can be achieved by selectively looking for decision-consonant information and avoiding contradictory information. The objective is to reduce the discrepancy between the cognitions, but the specification of which strategy will be chosen is not explicitly addressed by the dissonance theory. It will be dependent on the quantity and quality of the information available inside and outside the cognitive system.[33]

Klapper's selective exposure[edit]

Joseph Klapper (1960) asserts that mass communication does not directly influence people, but just reinforces people’s predispositions. Mass communications play a role as a mediator in persuasive communication. The following are Klapper's five mediating factors and conditions to affect people:

  • Predispositions and the related processes of selective exposure, selective perception, and selective retention.
  • The groups, and the norms of groups, to which the audience members belong.
  • Interpersonal dissemination of the content of communication
  • The exercise of opinion leadership
  • The nature of mass media in a free enterprise society.[34]

Three basic concepts:

  • Selective exposure – people keep away from communication of opposite hue.
  • Selective perception – If people are confronting unsympathetic material, they do not perceive it, or make it fit for their existing opinion.
  • Selective retention – Furthermore, they just simply forget the unsympathetic material.

Groups and group norms work as mediators. For example, one can be strongly disinclined to change to the Democratic Party if their family has voted Republican for a long time. In this case, the person’s predisposition to the political party is already set, so they don't perceive information about Democratic Party or change voting behavior because of mass communication. Klapper’s third assumption is inter-personal dissemination of mass communication. If someone is already exposed by close friends, which creates predisposition toward something, it will lead to an increase in exposure to mass communication and eventually reinforce the existing opinion. An opinion leader is also a crucial factor to form one's predisposition and can lead someone to be exposed by mass communication. The nature of commercial mass media also leads people to select certain types of media contents.

Implications[edit]

Media[edit]

Recent studies have shown more relevant empirical evidence for the prevalence of selective exposure. Some researchers suggest that consumers now hold more influence over the information provided to them by the media. Consumers many tend to select content that exposes and confirms their own ideas while avoiding information that argues against their opinion. Studies suggest that media offers a diverse set of views. For example, politics are more likely to inspire selective exposure among consumers as opposed to singe exposure decisions.[35] In one study, different types of media are compared and evaluated to see which type ignites the most selective exposure. Due to the modern media atmosphere, people are now able to engage with or avoid the information that is presented to them to its fullest extent. With that said, this does not conclude that people will automatically seek out congenial media. Four different types of media were investigated in this study: newspapers, political talk radio, cable news, and political websites.[36] Results showed that newspapers had less of an influence compared to cable news. Evidence clearly shows that people's political predispositions motivate their types of media selections.

In early research, selective exposure originally provided an explanation for limited media effects. The "limited effects" model of communication emerged in the 1940s with a shift in the media effects paradigm. This shift suggested that while the media has effects, for example on voting behavior, these effects are limited and influenced indirectly by interpersonal discussions and the influence of opinion leaders. Selective exposure was considered one necessary function in early studies of media’s limited power over citizens’ attitudes and behaviors.[37] Political ads deal with selective exposure because people are more likely to favor a politician that agrees with their own beliefs. Voters tend to read more about their preferred political candidate than an opponent. Specifically, in Berelson and Steiner (1964), both stated that people tend to hear and see information favorable to their predispositions, thus they are more likely to hear and see congenial information rather than neutral resources.[38] Stroud (2010) analyzes partisan selective exposure and political polarization. Using data from the 2004 National Annenberg Election Survey, analysts found that over time partisan selective exposure leads to polarization. Variables such as media and normative implications play a large role in the affects of this comparison. Selective exposure explains why media effects limit the influence on people's individual beliefs. Specifically, congenial media exposure significantly contributes to the increase of polarization in one's decisions. Through single-exposure results this article proposes that higher levels of polarization stem from partisan selective exposure. Additionally, this study investigated the causal direction of the relationship leading to congenial media exposure which increased polarization.[39]

Relation of C.S. Herrman's exposure theory[edit]

Selective exposure refers to the choice of an information source that could potentially confirm that the option one prefers is the best alternative because it agrees with their own beliefs.

Basic assumptions of Herrman's theory:

  • Exposure is a state of protected or unprotected risk or danger;
  • Exposure can be positive (adaptive) or negative (maladaptive)
  • Protected exposure presupposes the use of identification or projection to permit the feeling of security or safety despite the reality of risk or danger
  • Unprotected exposure is a state of risk or danger without the availability of identification or projection to obviate feelings producing maladaptive paralysis

Application to Selective exposure processes:

  • People desire protected exposure, so desire to identify with what induces such, for example, favored opinions
  • People desire to avoid unprotected exposure, so attempt to project away from a possible identification with undesirable triggers/stimuli, thus away from undesirable ideas or ideologies

References[edit]

  1. ^ Knobloch-Westerwick, S. (2014). Choice and preference in media use: Advances in selective exposure theory and research. New York: Routledge. http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780805855159/
  2. ^ Frey, D (1986). "Recent research on selective exposure to information.". Advances in experimental social psychology 19: 41–80. 
  3. ^ Chaffee, S., Nichols, S., Graf, J., Sandvig, C., & Hahn, K. S. (2001). Attention to counter-attitudinal messages in a state election campaign. Political Communication, 18, 247–272
  4. ^ Sweeny, K., Melnyk, D., Miller, W., & Shepperd, J.A. (2010). Information avoidance: Who, what, when and why. Review of General Psychology, 14, 347
  5. ^ Kastenmüller, A., Greitemeyer, T., Jonas, E., Fischer, P., & Frey, D. (2010). Selective exposure: The impact of collectivism and individualism. British Journal Of Social Psychology, 49(4), 745–763. doi:10.1348/014466609X478988
  6. ^ Frey, D (1986). "Recent research on selective exposure to information.". Advances in experimental social psychology 19: 41–80. 
  7. ^ Sweeny, K., Melnyk, D., Miller, W., & Shepperd, J. A. (2010). Information avoidance: Who, what, when, and why. Review Of General Psychology, 14(4), 340–353. doi:10.1037/a0021288
  8. ^ Jonas, E., Schulz-Hardt, S., Frey, D., & Thelen, N. (2001). Confirmation bias in sequential information search after preliminary decisions: An expansion of dissonance theoretical research on selective exposure to information. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 80(4), 557–571. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.80.4.557
  9. ^ Fischer, P., Fischer, J. K., Aydin, N., & Frey, D. (2010). Physically attractive social information sources lead to increased selective exposure to information. Basic And Applied Social Psychology, 32(4), 340–347. doi:10.1080/01973533.2010.519208
  10. ^ Fischer, P., Fischer, J. K., Aydin, N., & Frey, D. (2010). Physically attractive social information sources lead to increased selective exposure to information. Basic And Applied Social Psychology, 32(4), 340–347. doi:10.1080/01973533.2010.519208
  11. ^ Schulz-Hardt, S. , Fischer, P. & Frey, D. ( 2010 ). Confirmation bias in accuracy-motivated decision-making: A cognitive explanation for biased information seeking . Manuscript under revision
  12. ^ Jonas, E., Schulz-Hardt, S., Frey, D., & Thelen, N. (2001). Confirmation bias in sequential information search after preliminary decisions: An expansion of dissonance theoretical research on selective exposure to information. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 80(4), 557–571. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.80.4.557
  13. ^ (Fischer, P., Kastenmüller, A., Greitemeyer, T., Fischer, J., Frey, D., & Crelley, D. (2010). Threat and selective exposure: The moderating role of threat and decision context on confirmatory information search after decisions. Journal Of Experimental Psychology: General, doi:10.1037/a0021595)
  14. ^ (Fischer, P., Kastenmüller, A., Greitemeyer, T., Fischer, J., Frey, D., & Crelley, D. (2010). Threat and selective exposure: The moderating role of threat and decision context on confirmatory information search after decisions. Journal Of Experimental Psychology: General, doi:10.1037/a0021595)
  15. ^ Fischer, P., Fischer, J. K., Aydin, N., & Frey, D. (2010). Physically attractive social information sources lead to increased selective exposure to information. Basic And Applied Social Psychology, 32(4), 340–347. doi:10.1080/01973533.2010.519208
  16. ^ Fischer, P., Fischer, J. K., Aydin, N., & Frey, D. (2010). Physically attractive social information sources lead to increased selective exposure to information. Basic And Applied Social Psychology, 32(4), 340–347. doi:10.1080/01973533.2010.519208
  17. ^ (Fischer, P., Kastenmüller, A., Greitemeyer, T., Fischer, J., Frey, D., & Crelley, D. (2010). Threat and selective exposure: The moderating role of threat and decision context on confirmatory information search after decisions. Journal Of Experimental Psychology: General, doi:10.1037/a0021595)
  18. ^ Albarracín, D., & Mitchell, A. L. (2004). The Role of Defensive Confidence in Preference for Proattitudinal Information: How Believing That One is Strong Can Sometimes Be a Defensive Weakness. Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(12), 1565–1584. doi:10.1177/0146167204271180
  19. ^ Fischer, P., Fischer, J. K., Aydin, N., & Frey, D. (2010). Physically attractive social information sources lead to increased selective exposure to information. Basic And Applied Social Psychology, 32(4), 340–347. doi:10.1080/01973533.2010.519208
  20. ^ Albarracín, D., & Mitchell, A. L. (2004). The Role of Defensive Confidence in Preference for Proattitudinal Information: How Believing That One is Strong Can Sometimes Be a Defensive Weakness. Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin, 30(12), 1565–1584. doi:10.1177/0146167204271180
  21. ^ Bozo, Ö., Tunca, A., & Şİmşek, Y. (2009). The effect of death anxiety and age on health-promoting behaviors: A terror-management theory perspective. Journal Of Psychology: Interdisciplinary And Applied, 143(4), 377–389. doi:10.3200/JRLP.143.4.377-389
  22. ^ Fischer, P., Jonas, E., Frey, Dieter., & Kastenmüller, A. (2008) Selective exposure and decision framing: The impact of gain and loss framing on confirmatory information search after decisions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 44(2), 312-320.
  23. ^ Fischer, P., Lea, S., Kastenmüller, A., Greitemeyer, T., Fischer J., & Frey, D. (2011) The process of selective exposure: Why confirmatory information search weakens over time. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 114(1), 37-48.
  24. ^ Festinger, L. (1957) A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, p. 3
  25. ^ Fischer, P. (2011). Selective Exposure, Decision Uncertainty, and Cognitive Economy: A New Theoretical Perspective on Confirmatory Information Search. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5, 751-762. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2011.00386.x
  26. ^ Smith, S. M., Fabrigar, L. R., & Norris, M. E. (2008). Reflecting on six decades of selective exposure research: Progress, challenges, and opportunities. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2, 464-493. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2007.00060.x
  27. ^ Frey, D. (1986). Recent research on selective exposure to information. ‘’Advances in experimental social psychology’’ (Vol. 19, pp. 41–80). New York: Academic Press
  28. ^ Taber, C. S., & Lodge, M. (2006). Motivated Skepticism in the Evaluation of Political Beliefs. American Journal of Political Science, 50(3), 755–769. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5907.2006.00214.x
  29. ^ Knobloch-Westerwick, S., & others. (2009). Looking the Other Way. Communication Research, 36(3), 426
  30. ^ Smith, S. M., Fabrigar, L. R., & Norris, M. E. (2008). Reflecting on six decades of selective exposure research: Progress, challenges, and opportunities. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2, 464-493. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9004.2007.00060.x
  31. ^ Festinger, L. (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance p. 127-131
  32. ^ Festinger, L. (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance p. 127-131
  33. ^ Frey, D. (1986). Recent research on selective exposure to information. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, p. 44
  34. ^ Klapper, J. T. (1960). The effects of mass communication, p. 19, New York: Free Press
  35. ^ Stroud, N. (2008). Media use and political predispositions: Revisiting the concept of selective exposure. Political Behavior, 30(3), 341–366. doi:10.1007/s11109-007-9050-9
  36. ^ Stroud, N. (2008). Media use and political predispositions: Revisiting the concept of selective exposure. Political Behavior, 30(3), 341–366. doi:10.1007/s11109-007-9050-9
  37. ^ Lazarsfeld, P. F., Berelson, B., & Gaudet, H. (1948). ‘’The people's choice: How the voter makes up his mind in a Presidential campaign ‘’(2nd Ed.). New York, Columbia University Press.
  38. ^ Berelson, B., & Steiner, G. A. (1964). Human behavior: An inventory of scientific findings. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World
  39. ^ Stroud, N. (2010). Polarization and partisan selective exposure. Journal Of Communication, 60(3), 556–576. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2010.01497