This article offers a new approach to studying sex differences in responses to negative news, using real-time physiological responses as opposed to self-reports. Measurements of skin conductance and heart rate are used to examine whether there are differences in the extent to which women and men are aroused by and attentive to negative news stories. Like experiments that have relied on postexposure self-reports, we detect no sex differences in arousal in response to negative news stories. However, in contrast to those experiments, we find indications that women are more attentive than men to negative news content. We consider possible reasons for this difference in findings. We also discuss neuropsychological studies that are consistent with our finding of greater attentiveness on the part of women to negative stimuli. Finally, we consider the relationship between our work and evidence in the literature that women consume less news than men.
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Copyright © The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association 2016.