COLUMBUS, Ohio - A recent study examined people's bodily responses while watching presidential campaign ads - and discovered another way that people avoid political information that challenges their beliefs.
In the last days of the 2008 campaign, researchers had people watch a variety of actual ads for Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his Democratic rival Barack Obama while the viewers' heart rates, skin conductance and activation of facial muscles were monitored.
The results showed that partisan participants reacted strongly to ads featuring their favored candidate, but barely responded to ads featuring the rival candidate.
In comparison, people who didn't favor one candidate over the other showed similar physiological response patterns and intensity to ads for both Obama and McCain.
This suggests that partisan participants weren't really paying attention to the ads featuring the candidate they opposed even as they watched them, said Zheng Wang, lead author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University.
"If people are exposed to information in ads regarding a candidate they oppose, they respond by basically tuning out," Wang said.
"A lot of research has shown that, behaviorally, we tend to selectively expose ourselves to information that reinforces our existing opinions. But this study further suggests that even when exposed to information, our attention to what is presented is highly selective, as well," she said.
Wang co-authored the study with Alyssa Morey, a graduate student in communication at Ohio State, and Jatin Srivastava, an assistant professor at Ohio University. Their results appear in a recent issue of the journal Communication Research.
The study involved 15 college students who came to Wang's laboratory in October 2008. They were hooked up with electrodes that measured four physiological responses: heart rate, skin c
|Contact: Zheng Wang|
Ohio State University