Selective Exposure to Information on the Internet: Measuring Cognitive Dissonance and Selective Exposure with Eye-Tracking

Arne Freya Zillich, Lars Guenther


Studies on selective exposure to information on the Internet often ask participants to select between an equal number of mock articles consistent with or opposed to their attitudes. These studies represent neither ordinary online searches nor ordinary online articles. In addition, studies on selective exposure have mainly used Festinger’s concept of cognitive dissonance as an implicit framework without examining whether selective exposure is a way of coping with cognitive dissonance. Therefore, the present eye-tracking study (N = 98) (1) examines selective exposure as a result of cognitive dissonance, (2) combines self-reports and physiological measures of affect to operationalize cognitive dissonance, and (3) differentiates three levels of selective exposure when searching information on the Internet. We found no support for an effect of cognitive discrepancy on eye blinks or discomfort. In addition, regression analyses did not confirm selective exposure for searching, selecting, and viewing online information about self-driving cars.


selective exposure, cognitive dissonance, observational laboratory study, eye tracking, Internet browsing

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