Academic Publications

Sude, Pearson, & Knobloch-Westerwick (2021) in Computers in Human Behavior

The ability to vote (up or down) on an article shaped users’ own attitudes. Attitude-consistent voting dominated, independently of whether content was actually read. Thus, attitudes were reinforced. Self-expression interactivity may act as a megaphone, allowing people to focus solely on themselves and their ideas.

While people are thought to be motivated to maintain or defend their existing attitudes, Sude and collegues argue here that defending your views through a confirmation bias at least fosters greater sophistication, in the form of familiarity with arguments and evidence in favor of your position. Defending views through the mere act of up- or down-voting allows users to feel more extreme without mustering a better defense of their ideas.

For applications to user experience, and potential ways to harness self-expression for the public good, click.

For media coverage, see Press.

Westerwick, Sude, Robinson, and Knobloch-Westerwick (2020) (links to official citation, abstract, and download options) in Mass Communication and Society

People demonstrated distinct confirmation bias patterns when browsing content on a simulated social media platform versus a site with pieces by professional journalists. Note, this study employed an experimental design that randomly assigned identical content to the two different website sources. When posts were by peers, and people felt that the topic was personally important, they showed a particularly strong confirmation bias.

Potential explanations for impacts on the confirmation bias involve the greater credibility of professional sources {lower credibility of peer sources} as well as the potential social reward derived from reading work by like-minded peers on personally important topics.

Last, as in Sude, Knobloch-Westerwick, Robinson, and Westerwick (2019) described below, time spent reading content impacted perceptions of national public opinion in line with the content’s stance, and in turn impacted participants’ own attitudes. Once again, people “tuned” their attitudes to fit in with a national public, which is remarkable in and of itself!

Garrett, Sude, and Riva (2020) (links to official citation, abstract, and download options) in Political Communication

Social ostracism led people to reject political fact-check messages criticizing commonly held beliefs among their partisan-groups, even when they believed their responses would be private. Rooted in the social ostracism and motivated reasoning literatures, this study gives evidence that a desire for social-affiliation can lead to “toeing the party lie.” Ironically, fact-check messages may in fact promote conformity to erroneous but common beliefs within one’s political party, at least when participants are experiencing social threat.

Sude, Knobloch-Westerwick, Robinson, and Westerwick (2019) (links to official citation, abstract, and download options) in Communication Monographs

People moderated their political attitudes in response to headlines alone; more so if they read the articles. This attitude change happened in part because the articles acted as a national public opinion cue and people “tuned” to perceived trends in national public opinion. In line with predictions derived from Spiral of Silence Theory, people appeared to want to hold less extreme views so that they could better navigate the social threat of political disagreement and achieve the rewards of social integration into the broader American public.

Knobloch-Westerwick, S., Westerwick, A., & Sude, D.J. (2019). Media choice and selective exposure. In M.B Oliver, A. Raney, & J. Bryant (Eds.), Media Effects (4th Ed.). London, UK: Routledge.

This chapter reviews the concept of selective exposure (selection of and engagement with media messages). It reviews different eras in selective exposure research and their associated methodological and theoretical approaches. It ends with cutting edge developments and future directions.

Broad Overview of Program of Research