The Effect of Motivation on Political Selective Exposure and Selective Perception
theory of motivated reasoning
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis study examines the effect of motivation on political selective exposure and selective perception using an online experiment. Studies have found that though people have a preference for like-minded political information over counter-attitudinal information, they do not avoid counter-attitudinal political information altogether (Garrett, 2009; Garrett, Carnahan, & Lynch, 2011; Stroud, 2008). This study examines under what conditions people are likely to expose themselves to more like-minded information than counter-attitudinal information and under what conditions people are likely to seek out more counter-attitudinal information than like-minded information. Based on the theory of motivated reasoning and Hart et al. (2009)'s model, I proposed a model that explained selective exposure and selective perception based on motivation. Defense motivation, the motivation to hold attitude-consistent cognitions with one's original attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors, was predicted to increase selective exposure and selective perception. Accuracy motivation, the motivation to arrive at the correct conclusion, was predicted to reduce selective exposure and selective perception. Finally, information utility motivation, the motivation to choose information that has the highest utility, was predicted to reduce selective exposure when counter-attitudinal information was equally useful as attitude-consistent information, but increase selective exposure when attitude-consistent information was more useful than counter-attitudinal information. In both cases, it was predicted that the selective perception pattern would not be changed. The study also tested the additive effect of the three motivations and examined which motivation can override other motivations in determining selective exposure and selective perception. Results showed that accuracy motivation was effective in reducing selective exposure for both strong partisans and those who were not strong partisans. Accuracy motivation can override defense motivation in affecting selective exposure. Information utility alone, defense motivation alone, and the combination of the three motivations produced mixed results. Accuracy motivation was effective in reducing selective perception for those who were not strong partisans. The link between selective exposure and selective perception was not found.
Degree ProgramGraduate College