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Mobile Selective Exposure: Confirmation Bias and Impact of Social Cues during Mobile News Consumption in the United States

Ross, Morgan Quinn; Crum, Jarod; Wang, Shengkai; Knobloch-Westerwick, Silvia

FG Audiokommunikation

Concerns about online news consumption have proliferated, with some evidence suggesting a heightened impact of the confirmation bias and social cues online. This paper argues that mobile media may further shape selective exposure to political content. We conducted two online selective exposure experiments to investigate whether browsing political content on smartphones (vs. computers) facilitates selective exposure to attitude-consistent vs. attitude-discrepant articles (confirmation bias) with high vs. low views (impact of social cues). Notably, these studies leveraged novel random assignment techniques and a custom-designed, mobile-compatible news website. Using a student sample, Study 1 (N = 157) revealed weak evidence that the confirmation bias is stronger on smartphones than computers, and the impact of social cues was similar across devices. Study 2 (N = 156) attempted to replicate these findings in a general population sample. The impact of social cues remained similar across devices, but the confirmation bias was not stronger on smartphones than computers. Overall, the confirmation bias (but not the impact of social cues) manifested on smartphones, and neither outcome was consistently stronger on smartphones than computers.