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Selective Exposure

Jennings Bryant and John Davies


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The study of selective exposure seeks to understand how and why people consume particular communication content when faced with a constellation of choices. Broadly defined, selective exposure refers to behaviors that are deliberately performed in an effort to bring communication content within reach of one's sensory apparatus ( Zillmann & Bryant 1985 ). In the modern, media-saturated world, selective exposure often occurs within the context of mass media, although by definition it encompasses all forms of human communication. The current state of research in this area can be understood by tracing historical approaches to selective exposure, outlining key theoretical components, and describing directions of current research. Psychology's interest in persuasion laid the groundwork for the study of selective exposure. By the conclusion of World War II, propaganda researchers had long noted that people avoided messages that conflicted with their opinions, and even interpreted those messages differently (→  Selective Perception and Selective Retention ; Propaganda in World War II ). Lazarsfeld et al.'s (1944) classic study of the 1940 presidential election provided strong support for the idea that people either avoided persuasive media content designed to change their opinions, or sought out media that reinforced their beliefs (→  Lazarsfeld, Paul F .). They found that approximately ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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