Encouraging Reading of Diverse Political Viewpoints with a Browser Widget

author: Sean A. Munson, Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering, University of Washington
published: April 3, 2014,   recorded: July 2013,   views: 1884

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The Internet gives individuals more choice in political news and information sources and more tools to filter out disagreeable information. Citing the preference described by selective exposure theory - people prefer information that supports their beliefs and avoid counter-attitudinal information - observers warn that people may use these tools to access only agreeable information and thus live in ideological echo chambers. We report on a field deployment of a browser extension that showed users feedback about the political lean of their weekly and all time reading behaviors. Compared to a control group, showing feedback led to a modest move toward balanced exposure, corresponding to 1-2 visits per week to ideologically opposing sites or 5-10 additional visits per week to centrist sites.

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