The curiosity effect: Information seeking in the contemporary news environment

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Abstract

This research investigates how digital news headlines influence contemporary news information seeking. In two studies (a lab experiment and a field test), we examine how the presentation of news information—traditional, summary news headlines or clickbait, curiosity news headlines—influences the attitudinal and behavioral components of news seeking. Study 1 models the news-seeking process, finding that summary headlines heighten perceptions of headline information adequacy, which increase expectations that an article will provide clear information, which in turn increase anticipated audience engagement with news compared to some curiosity headlines. Study 2 determines that individuals’ selection behavior on nine local newspaper websites also favors summary headlines. The findings encourage researchers to employ information-seeking mechanisms in understanding news selection decisions.

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Scacco, J. M., & Muddiman, A. (2020). The curiosity effect: Information seeking in the contemporary news environment. New Media and Society, 22(3), 429–448. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444819863408

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