How news literacy messages can change the way people seek out news media

by | Apr 5, 2019 | Blog, Engagement, News literacy, What We're Reading

Researchers studied how learning about news media literacy impacts different sides of the bipartisan line. They found that people’s aversion to news that contradicts their beliefs can be changed through media literacy lessons.

Engaging with the other side: using news media literacy messages to reduce selective exposure and avoidance
Journal of Information Technology & Politics
Emily K. Vraga and Melissa Tully
Feb. 1, 2019

Just as a buffet has countless, colorful options for dinner, so too does the media world offer plenty of options to diversify your diet. But what happens when people choose to stick to pizza without trying any vegetables? Selective exposure is the practice of only consuming news content that matches your pre-existing beliefs.

Researchers Vraga and Tully theorized that news media literacy (NML) messages, like commercials advocating for news literacy, could help reduce selective avoidance and selective news exposure. Six days before the 2016 presidential election, researchers asked 522 participants to answer questions about their news leanings and personal politics before watching news videos with different political biases.

Participants were assigned to one of five NML advertisements: The control group was given an anti-texting while driving ad, while the other four videos were created from a fictional coalition, featuring themes such as a journalist PSA. They found that any partisan differences participants had were “reduced to non-significance” when they include all of the NML messages together.


Study Details

  • Researchers randomly assigned 284 participants to watch one of five 35–39 seconds videos promoting news media literacy.
  • No one video alone had a unanimous effect on reducing selective exposure behaviors.
  • Researchers compared the ways NML message types and party affiliation as factors. Results suggested that Republicans “demonstrated more selective exposure to congruent stories” than Democrats.