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Traits as Moderators of Selective Exposure

by Benjamin on May 26th, 2017

In my two newest articles, in the latest issue of Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media (with Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick) and in press at Communication Monographs (with Knobloch-Westerwick and Axel Westerwick), the relationship between selective exposure and traits is at the forefront.


At JOBEM, we test how informational utility leads to more selective exposure. News articles that convey greater issue magnitude, likelihood, immediacy, and efficacy tend to be consumed more. We find that individual differences in coping moderate the effect of these message characteristics on exposure. Avoidant individuals selected messages with high and low utility at similar rates; non-avoidants were disposed toward high utility messages. Additionally, problem-focused people were more likely to select low-efficacy messages, whereas people low on the problem-focus coping trait were more likely to select high efficacy messages.


Over at Comm Monographs, we look at partisan selective exposure and test how motivation (i.e., need for cognition) and ability (i.e., cognitive reflection) moderate effects. The study also investigates partisan bias in the content (pro- vs. counter-attitudinal messages) versus bias in the source (slanted vs. neutral sources), as well as immediate versus delayed effects on polarization. There’s a lot to unpack in the findings, and it’s an important step for understanding moderating factors, types of partisan bias, and the duration of polarizing effects.


These articles contribute to a nascent but valuable research trend to account for the dispositional factors that shape selective exposure to different types of media messages. And, an important further step is to consider dispositions and situations in conjunction.


Johnson, B. K., & Knobloch-Westerwick, S. (2017). Steer clear or get ready: How coping styles moderate the effect of informational utility. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 61(2), 332-350. doi: 10.1080/08838151.2017.1309408


Westerwick, A., Johnson, B. K., & Knobloch-Westerwick, S. (in press). Confirmation biases in selective exposure to political online information: Source bias versus content bias. Communication Monographs. doi: 10.1080/03637751.2016.1272761



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