Perceptions of Newsworthiness are Contaminated by a Political Usefulness Bias

Royal Society Open Science, 2018

San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 18-355

12 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2018  

Hal Pashler

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Psychology

Gail L. Heriot

University of San Diego School of Law

Abstract

Are people’s perceptions of the newsworthiness of events biased by a tendency to rate as more important any news story that seems likely to lead others to share their own political attitudes? To assess this, we created six pairs of hypothetical news stories, each describing an event that seemed likely to encourage people to adopt attitudes on the opposite side of a particular controversial issue (e.g. affirmative action and gay marriage). In total, 569 subjects were asked to evaluate the importance of these stories ‘to the readership of a generalcirculation newspaper’, disregarding how interesting they happened to find the event. Subjects later indicated their own personal attitudes to the underlying political issues. Predicted crossover interactions were confirmed for all six issues. All the interactions took the form of subjects rating stories offering ‘ammunition’ for their own side of the controversial issue as possessing greater intrinsic news importance.

Keywords: judgement, motivated reasoning, political psychology

JEL Classification: A00, A10, K10

Suggested Citation

Pashler, Hal and Heriot, Gail L., Perceptions of Newsworthiness are Contaminated by a Political Usefulness Bias. Royal Society Open Science, 2018; San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 18-355. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3225878 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3225878

Hal Pashler

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Psychology ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code #0109
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
United States

Gail L. Heriot (Contact Author)

University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States

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