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Title:The sequential exposure bias: A preference for approaching pro-attitudinal before counter-attitudinal information that can bias evaluative judgments
Author(s):Hepler, Justin
Director of Research:Albarracin, Dolores
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Albarracin, Dolores
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Preston, Jesse L.; Roberts, Brent W.; Shavitt, Sharon; Vargas, Patrick T.
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Information Search
defense motivation
defensive confidence
selective exposure
Abstract:When searching for information, people often engage in behaviors that lead to biased rather than accurate judgments (e.g., confirmation bias). The present research identified the sequential exposure bias, defined as a tendency to approach attitude-supportive (congenial) information before attitude-unsupportive (uncongenial) information when searching for information. Participants were more likely to approach congenial before uncongenial information for a variety of stimuli, including novel consumer products (Studies 1-4) and important social topics such as civil rights (Studies 5-6). Further, the sequential exposure bias influenced downstream judgments via primacy effects – when participants initially liked (disliked) a stimulus, they tended to approach positive (negative) information first, and this approach order caused final attitudes to be relatively more positive (negative). Consequently, the sequential exposure bias helps individuals defend their attitudes against the persuasive influence of uncongenial information. Importantly, participants induced to have a strong desire to defend their attitudes displayed a stronger sequential exposure bias, indicating that the sequential exposure bias is sometimes deliberately used for attitude defense (Study 5). Although it was hypothesized that a strong accuracy motivation would reduce the sequential exposure bias, accuracy motivation could not be successfully manipulated to test this hypothesis (Study 6). Finally, individuals displayed consistent patterns of sequential exposure decisions across stimuli (Studies 1, 7, and 8), suggesting that individuals have consistent preferences for the order in which they approach positive versus negative information. Overall, the present research identified the sequential exposure bias as a novel information search behavior that has the potential to bias information search outcomes by making people relatively resistant to uncongenial information.
Issue Date:2014-05-30
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Justin Hepler
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-05-30
Date Deposited:2014-05

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