Attention to Negative News: Universal versus Culturally-Sensitive Accounts

By | on December 11, 2017 | 0 Comment


Stuart Soroka
Department of Communication
University of Michigan
Grant received in 2011-2012

This article offers a new approach to studying sex differences in responses to negative news, using real-time physiological responses as opposed to self-reports. Measurements of skin conductance and heart rate are used to examine whether there are differences in the extent to which women and men are aroused by and attentive to negative news stories. Like experiments that have relied on postexposure self-reports, we detect no sex differences in arousal in response to negative news stories. However, in contrast to those experiments, we find indications that women are more attentive than men to negative news content. We consider possible reasons for this difference in findings. We also discuss neuropsychological studies that are consistent with our finding of greater attentiveness on the part of women to negative stimuli. Finally, we consider the relationship between our work and evidence in the literature that women consume less news than men.

Master’s and PhD students in political science from Université de Montréal and McGill University contributed to this project. Furthermore, this project received an additional grant from the SSHRC in 2014.



  • 2017. “A Cross-National, Psychophysiological Study of the Connection between Negativity Biases and Political Preferences”,” with Patrick Fournier and Lilach Nir, presented at the NYU CESS 10th Annual Experimental Political Science Conference
  • 2016. “Negativity Biases in Reactions to Network News: A Cross-National, Psychophysiological Pilot Study,” with Patrick Fournier and Lilach Nir, presented at the 66th International Communication Association Annual Conference.
  • 2015. “Negativity Biases in Reactions to Network News,” with Patrick Fournier and Lilach Nir, presented at the Hendricks Symposium on Psychology, Biology and Political Attitudes, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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