Cognitive access to negatively arousing news: An experimental investigation of the knowledge gap

Maria Elizabeth Grabe, Annie Lang, Shuhua Zhou, Paul David Bolls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

73 Scopus citations

Abstract

Over the past 30 years, survey researchers have documented the existence of a knowledge gap and expressed concern that people with little education are falling behind because they do not acquire the information necessary to participate in socioeconomic spheres. This study is the first to offer (a) experimental evidence for the existence of the knowledge gap and (b) explanations for it in terms of varying levels of information processing capacities, or cognitive access. Participants from higher and lower educational backgrounds paid equal levels of attention to television news stories, but they did not display the same recognition memory for facts. Moreover, participants in the higher education group were physiologically more aroused by news than those in the lower education group. These findings do not pinpoint whether cognitive access is learned or innate, but they do suggest that the biological systems of people from higher educational backgrounds are particularly alert in preparing for information processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-26
Number of pages24
JournalCommunication Research
Volume27
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2000

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