Cross-national evidence of a negativity bias in psychophysiological reactions to news

Stuart Soroka*, Patrick Fournier, Lilach Nir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

188 Scopus citations

Abstract

What accounts for the prevalence of negative news content? One answer may lie in the tendency for humans to react more strongly to negative than positive information. “Negativity biases” in human cognition and behavior are well documented, but existing research is based on small Anglo-American samples and stimuli that are only tangentially related to our political world. This work accordingly reports results from a 17-country, 6-continent experimental study examining psychophysiological reactions to real video news content. Results offer the most comprehensive cross-national demonstration of negativity biases to date, but they also serve to highlight considerable individual-level variation in responsiveness to news content. Insofar as our results make clear the pervasiveness of negativity biases on average, they help account for the tendency for audience-seeking news around the world to be predominantly negative. Insofar as our results highlight individual-level variation, however, they highlight the potential for more positive content, and suggest that there may be reason to reconsider the conventional journalistic wisdom that “if it bleeds, it leads.”

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)18888-18892
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume116
Issue number38
DOIs
StatePublished - 17 Sep 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Negativity bias
  • News coverage
  • Political communication

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