Your Body Doesn’t Lie

Zheng Wang, Photo courtesy of Science Daily (taken by Kevin Fitzsimons)

 ScienceDaily reports on another way people avoid information that challenges their beliefs.   The 2008 study found 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 candidates.

“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.”  Says Zheng Wang, assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University and co-author of the study.

Participants were hooked up to electrodes that measured four physiological responses: heart rate, skin conductance  and muscle movements around the cheekbone and around the eyebrows.

While hooked up, each participant watched 12 campaign ads while their physiological reactions were recorded.  After watching the ads, they filled out measures of how positively and negatively they regarded the person represented in the campaign ad.

Simply put Wang states, “If people are exposed to information in ads regarding a candidate they oppose, they respond by basically tuning out, “  She goes on to point out,At any one time, ad viewers’ reactions are affected not just by what they are seeing at that exact moment, but also by what came before in the ad.  The dynamical feedback model puts it all together to see how people react in a real-time, real-world way.”

The feedback model suggests that the positive feelings that viewers have are amplified as they watch an ad for their candidate.  But for opponents, the feedback effects actually seem to decrease their response over time as they watch the ad, that is, they tune out.

Do you tune out the ads for people you don’t support ?  Is this study Interesting or Insulting ?

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