Date of Graduation
Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)
Second Committee Member
Algorithms, Experimental psychology, Online communication, Social media, Social psychology
The public’s turn towards news websites and social media for news consumption has sparked anxiety over echo chambers, avoidance of opinion-challenging content, and potentially fragmentation and polarization among sociopolitical groups. Algorithms have specifically been blamed for increasing the ease of filtering out counter-attitudinal online content and potentially exacerbating selective exposure tendencies. However, longstanding classic psychological research has demonstrated the ubiquitous phenomenon of cognitive dissonance and selective exposure far before the internet became the primary tool for news consumption. Research investigating how algorithms directly influence online approach and avoidance behavior is unfortunately scarce. This dissertation work aimed to analyze the impact of an algorithm system during online information consumption on selective exposure behavior. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: a neutral condition where presented articles are balanced in attitudinal valence; an algorithm condition where presented articles update to match previous selection behavior; and a motivated condition where participants are encouraged to explore dissimilar viewpoints. Overall, a-priori hypotheses were not supported, and condition had virtually no effect on dependent variables, including selective exposure tendency. However, results provide an in-depth look into perceptual and behavioral processes of highly polarized individuals during the information-seeking process.
Wamsley, D. E. (2022). Algorithms vs. Human Nature: A Tale of Selective Exposure. Graduate Theses and Dissertations Retrieved from https://scholarworks.uark.edu/etd/4523