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Psychology of agenda-setting effects: mapping the paths of information processing

[journal article]

McCombs, Maxwell; Stroud, Natalie J.

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Abstract The concept of Need for Orientation introduced in the early years of agenda-setting research provided a psychological explanation for why agenda-setting effects occur in terms of what individuals bring to the media experience that determines the strength of these effects. Until recently, there had been no significant additions to our knowledge about the psychology of agenda-setting effects. However, the concept of Need for Orientation is only one part of the answer to the question about why agenda setting occurs. Recent research outlines a second way to answer the why question by describing the psychological process through which these effects occur. In this review, we integrate four contemporary studies that explicate dual psychological paths that lead to agenda-setting effects at the first and second levels. We then examine how information preferences and selective exposure can be profitably included in the agenda-setting framework. Complementing these new models of information processing and varying attention to media content and presentation cues, an expanded concept of psychological relevance, motivated reasoning goals (accuracy versus directional goals), and issue publics are discussed.
Keywords communication research; agenda setting function; public opinion; perception; information processing; news; journalism; political communication; reception; media; utilization
Classification Basic Research, General Concepts and History of the Science of Communication; Impact Research, Recipient Research
Free Keywords agenda setting; attribute agenda setting; motivated reasoning; issue publics; psychological relevance; need for orientation; selective exposure
Document language English
Publication Year 2014
Page/Pages p. 68-93
Journal Review of Communication Research, 2 (2014)
ISSN 2255-4165
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-NonCommercial