Null effects of news exposure: A test of the (un) desirable effects of a ‘news vacation’ and ‘news binging’

Magdalena Wojcieszak, Bernhard Clemm von Hohenberg, Andreu Casas Salleras, Ericka Menchen-Trevino, Sjifra de Leeuw, Alexandre Gonçalves, Miriam Boon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Democratic theorists and the public emphasize the centrality of news media to a well-functioning society. Yet, there are reasons to believe that news exposure can have a range of largely overlooked detrimental effects. This preregistered project examines news exposure effects on desirable outcomes, i.e., political knowledge, participation, and support for compromise, and detrimental outcomes, i.e., attitude and affective polarization, negative system perceptions, and worsened individual well-being. We rely on two complementary over-time experiments that combine participants’ survey self-reports and their behavioral browsing data: one that incentivized participants to take a ’news vacation’ for a week (N = 803; 6M visits) in the US, the other to ‘news binge’ for 2 weeks (N = 939; 4M visits) in Poland. Across both experiments, we demonstrate that reducing or increasing news exposure has no impact on the positive or negative outcomes tested. These null effects emerge irrespective of participants’ prior levels of news consumption and whether prior news diet was like-minded, and regardless of compliance levels. We argue that these findings reflect the reality of limited news exposure in the real world, with news exposure comprising on average roughly 3% of citizens’ online information diet.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords

  • media effect
  • digital trace data
  • news exposure
  • experiment
  • new vacation
  • news binging

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