Exploring the hardwired for news hypothesis : how threat proximity affects the cognitive and emotional processing of health-related print news

Wise, Kevin and Eckler, Petya and Kononova, Anastasia and Littau, Jeremy (2009) Exploring the hardwired for news hypothesis : how threat proximity affects the cognitive and emotional processing of health-related print news. Communication Studies, 60 (3). pp. 268-287. ISSN 1051-0974

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Abstract

This study explored how the proximity of threatening health news affects cognition and emotion through a 2 (Proximity: High=Low)4 (Topic) fractional experiment. Fifty-one participants read four news stories about either local or distant health threats, with their heart rate, skin conductance, and corrugator electromyography recorded. Results showed that high-proximity health threats elicited greater heart rate deceleration than did lowproximity health threats, indicating greater allocation of automatic resources to encoding high-proximity threats. Recognition data demonstrated that details from high-proximity health threats were recognized more accurately than details from low-proximity health threats. There were no significant effects of proximity on either skin conductance levels or corrugator activation. These results are discussed in terms of Shoemaker’s (1996) hardwired for news hypothesis and A. Lang’s (2000, 2006) limited capacity model.