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Effects of Journalistic Adjudication on Factual Beliefs, News Evaluations, Information Seeking, and Epistemic Political Efficacy

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A frequent critique of contemporary journalism is that journalists rarely adjudicate factual disputes when covering politics; however, very little research has been done on the effects of such passive journalism on audiences. This study tests effects of active adjudication versus “he said/she said” journalism on a variety of outcomes, finding that adjudication can correct factual beliefs, increase perceived news quality, satisfy perceived informational needs, and increase the likelihood of future news use. However, for readers who were less interested in the issues under dispute, adjudication also reduced epistemic political efficacy, which is confidence in one's ability to find the truth in politics.
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Effects of Journalistic Adjudication on
Factual Beliefs, News Evaluations,
Information Seeking, and Epistemic
Political Efficacy
Raymond James Pingree
Manship School of Mass Communication
Louisiana State University
Dominique Brossard
Department of Life Sciences Communication
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Douglas M. McLeod
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
University of Wisconsin-Madison
A frequent critique of contemporary journalism is that journalists rarely adjudi-
cate factual disputes when covering politics; however, very little research has
been done on the effects of such passive journalism on audiences. This study tests
Raymond James Pingree (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, 2008) is an Assistant Professor in
the Manship School of Mass Communication at LouisianaState University. His research interests
include agenda setting, deliberative democracy, effects of political news, and expression effects.
Dominique Brossard (Ph.D., Cornell University, 2002) is Professor and Chair in the
Department of Life Sciences Communication at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her
research program concentrates on the intersection between science, media, and policy.
Douglas M. McLeod (Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 1989) is the Evjue Centennial Professor in
the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His
research interests include mass media and social conflict, and cognitive media effects.
Correspondence should be addressed to Raymond James Pingree, Manship School of Mass
Communication, Louisiana State University, Journalism Building, Baton Rouge, LA 70803.
E-mail: rpingree@lsu.edu
Mass Communication and Society, 17:615–638, 2014
Copyright #Mass Communication & Society Division
of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
ISSN: 1520-5436 print=1532-7825 online
DOI: 10.1080/15205436.2013.821491
615
effects of active adjudication versus ‘‘he said=she said’’ journalism on a variety of
outcomes, finding that adjudication can correct factual beliefs, increase perceived
news quality, satisfy perceived informational needs, and increase the likelihood
of future news use. However, for readers who were less interested in the issues
under dispute, adjudication also reduced epistemic political efficacy, which is
confidence in one’s ability to find the truth in politics.
INTRODUCTION
Many critics have noted that news reporters often practice overly neutral,
‘‘he said=she said’’ journalism, in which journalists stop at quoting contra-
dictory factual claims of two or more sides and do not include additional
information to ‘‘adjudicate’’ the dispute (Cunningham, 2003; Durham, 1998;
Jamieson & Waldman, 2003; Lawrence & Schafer, 2012; Rosen, 1993;
Streckfuss, 1990). Although merely quoting both sides may be appropriate if
their disagreements are inherently subjective, in cases where political disputes
do hinge on verifiable facts, reporters quite often can, but increasingly rarely
do, include additional information that could help readers decide which claims
to believe (Jamieson & Waldman, 2003). Despite the emphasis on he said=she
said reporting in scholarly critiques of modern journalism, there has been
very little empirical research on the effects this may have on audiences. This
may be due to the fact that such journalistic criticisms tend to emphasize
effects on political elites in terms of lack of accountability, leaving many
questions about effects on audiences unanswered or even unasked. Do
audience members see stories that lack adjudication as less credible, less
satisfying, and less interesting? How does it affect their desire to seek more
information or read another news story? And does this type of reporting
affect audience members’ confidence in their ability to know what is really
happening? Does the audience become disillusioned about their ability to
get to the bottom of factual disputes, or does the added complexity of stories
adjudicating factual disputes make them less confident they can understand
politics? This experiment examines all of these possible effects in the context
of a news story involving two factual disputes between a corporation and
a group of protesters.
Journalistic Adjudication
As Jamieson and Waldman (2003) put it, reporters should be more willing to
‘‘adjudicate factual disputes’’ by checking factual claims, looking for
additional sources, and doing their own analysis. In other words, instead
of being satisfied with reporting that accurately quotes inaccurate claims
616 PINGREE, BROSSARD, MCLEOD
made by elites, reporters should engage in more thorough fact-checking of
claims made by sources, and where the evidence strongly contradicts such
a claim, they should share that evidence with readers. We do not assert that
journalists never do this, nor that all political disputes can be resolved with
certainty by journalistic adjudication. Journalists do adjudicate some of the
time, and some disputes are either inherently subjective or simply too diffi-
cult to adjudicate. However, when these reasons for the lack of adjudication
do not apply, reporters still often shy away from adjudication for several
reasons. First, insufficient resources may explain many instances in which
journalists fail to adjudicate. Modern newsrooms operate on tight budgets,
with minimal staff and increasingly short news cycles (Cunningham, 2003;
McManus, 1992; McManus, 1995). Cost-minimization has even led some
organizations to what can arguably be described as an ‘‘assembly line’’
approach to news production, in which the primary focus is on productivity
and in which reporters often feel little personal ownership of a story, reduc-
ing the motivation to produce high-quality stories (Bantz, McCorkle, &
Baade, 1980). ‘‘He said=she said’’ stories are, of course, cheaper to produce
because fewer reporter hours are required for each story. Such reporting can
also be cheaper to produce because it places lesser demands on the experi-
ence and knowledge of reporters. Adjudication can require specialized
knowledge about a topic, an ability to find or assess data relevant to the
claims, or an ability to find credible experts on the subject who could be
quoted as additional sources. An organization in which reporters rarely
check factual claims made by sources can save resources and production
time and allow them to operate with a less experienced and lower paid staff.
In addition to resource constraints, conflicting motivations, incentives,
and norms may also influence how scarce resources are allocated to
adjudicating the various facts in a story. Although an altruistic motivation
to help the public understand issues is undoubtedly important to pro-
fessional reporters, it would be naı
¨ve to assume that this is the only motiv-
ation that guides their decisions. Many reporter decisions can also be
explained as ‘‘strategic rituals’’ that are driven by a motivation to minimize
risks such a reprimand from superiors (Tuchman, 1972), loss of access to
elite sources (Cunningham, 2003), or negative reactions from readers who
expect strictly neutral coverage (Jamieson & Waldman, 2003; Streckfuss,
1990). There are risks involved in either checking factual claims or failing
to check them, but generally the risks of failing to check claims are much
greater for claims not attributed to a source, because erroneous claims made
by a source naturally reflect much more on the source than on the reporter
(Jamieson & Waldman, 2003). Thus, the incentive to check the factual
claims made by either side in a ‘‘he said=she said’’ story is reduced because
of the mere fact that the factual claims are made by the two sides and not by
ADJUDICATION EFFECTS 617
the reporter. Finally, above and beyond these rational explanations, some
reporters may not adjudicate because they do not see it as a valid option
within the narrative constraints of a news story, in effect defaulting to
a ‘‘he said=she said’’ story as a routinized norm of news writing as story-
telling (Tuchman, 1978) instead of rationally weighing the costs and risks
of adjudication.
Balanced Adjudication and Bias Attributions
As previously noted, one of the reasons some journalists may avoid adjudi-
cation is the possibility that readers will mistake adjudication for bias.
In other words, when the adjudication supports the claims made by one side,
readers may attribute the adjudication to reporter bias toward that side
rather than a case of factual evidence supporting that side. Further, if audi-
ence members do attribute adjudication to partisan bias, this would provide
a compelling explanation for the backfire effects sometimes found in
research on journalistic attempts to correct factual beliefs (reviewed in the
next section), with the adjudication being actively resisted because it is seen
as a persuasive attempt by an opposing partisan rather than as a fair assess-
ment of factual evidence. One way that reporters attempt to minimize the
likelihood of such bias attributions is by presenting a simple balanced story
without any adjudication. However, such bias perceptions may also be
neutralized in situations where adjudication is balanced, meaning that each
side is contradicted about at least one of its claims.
Balanced adjudication has been suggested as a possible future research
direction in past research on effects of ‘‘adwatch’’ segments in which
journalists adjudicate factual claims made in political advertisements
(Ansolabehere & Iyengar, 1996), though it appears this direction has not
been pursued, at least in the context of adwatch segments in news. However,
balanced adjudication may be analogous to a technique used within adver-
tisements themselves called two-sided advertising, which has been exten-
sively studied and may involve similar mechanisms of establishing
credibility via audience attributions. Specifically, in two-sided advertising,
the advertiser mentions not only positive information about their product
but also some negative information, which under certain conditions results
in substantially more persuasive advertisements than one-sided messages
containing only positive information about the product (Crowley & Hoyer,
1994; Eisend, 2006). This effect is typically explained using attribution
theory (Jones & Davis, 1965; Kelley, 1973). Specifically, audiences are less
likely to attribute the positive ad claims to the advertiser’s ulterior motives
(as opposed to the reality of the product) when the ad has established its
credibility by acknowledging some real negative aspect of the product (Settle
618 PINGREE, BROSSARD, MCLEOD
& Golden, 1974). Similar processes may allow balanced adjudication to
avoid backfire effects that may otherwise have occurred with one-sided
adjudication. Specifically, as in one-sided advertising, when the journalist
adjudicates a factual dispute in favor of only one side, some audience mem-
bers may attribute this adjudication to some form of reporter bias, instead
of attributing the adjudication to the factual evidence actually being more
supportive of one side. However, as in two-sided advertising, when multiple
factual claims are adjudicated in different directions in the same news story,
this may establish credibility of the adjudication by making audiences less
likely to attribute it to reporter bias.
Effects of Adjudication
As previously noted, critics have largely focused on the implications
of insufficient adjudication in terms of a failure to hold elites account-
able, and have tended to neglect its potential for direct effects on
audiences. We explore three categories of such effects: on beliefs about
thespecificdisputedfacts,onperceptions of the quality of the news
source, and on general political orientations such as information seeking
and efficacy.
Factual Beliefs
Effects on beliefs about the disputed facts are perhaps the most obvious
direct effects one might expect adjudication to have on audiences, and they
are one area in which numerous relevant experiments have been done.
Specifically, several experiments have tested effects of exposure to
‘‘adwatches,’’ or news segments that adjudicate factual claims in political
advertising (Ansolabehere & Iyengar, 1996; McKinnon & Kaid, 1999; Pfau
& Louden, 1994). These studies have found that adwatches are frequently
ineffective and occasionally can even produce a ‘‘backfire’’ effect that shifts
attitudes in the direction of the ad instead of against it. This backfire is
particularly likely to occur with a full-screen format adwatch in which the
ad is replayed covering the entire screen, as opposed to ‘‘boxed’’ formats
presenting information countering the ad’s claims simultaneously with the
ad, or verbal formats that do not replay the ad (Pfau & Louden, 1994). This
suggests that the backfire effect may not always be an inherent effect of the
adwatch content itself and may represent the persuasive impact of replaying
the ad itself.
Note that the focal outcomes in adwatch research are attitudes about the
candidates, the ads, and the media outlets. Surprisingly, it seems that none
of these studies have reported any analyses of effects of adwatch exposure
ADJUDICATION EFFECTS 619
on the specific factual beliefs adjudicated by the adwatches. One of these
studies found a backfire effect on an ad evaluation scale that included
perceptions of ad accuracy (McKinnon & Kaid, 1999). In other words, after
hearing journalistic fact-checking that pointed out factual misrepresenta-
tions in an ad, people rated the ad as more accurate. This implies, but does
not directly test, backfire effects in terms of the correctness of audience
members’ factual beliefs. Ultimately, the lesson of adwatch research for
our purposes may simply be that it is not easy to design an effective adjudi-
cation message, either for a researcher or for a journalist. Adwatch segments
are a very narrow subset of journalistic adjudication, and perhaps a parti-
cularly challenging one due to strong partisan cues, potentially strong prior
attitudes about candidates, and the need to overcome the persuasive power
of the ad itself including its visual imagery. Further, many adwatch
segments may fail to influence broad attitudes about candidates due to their
focus on isolated facts that audiences see as trivial or even irrelevant to their
broader attitudes, chosen by journalists for their ease of adjudication over
more important claims that would require assessment of a pattern of
evidence (Richardson, 1998).
An emerging area of adjudication experiments focuses on correction of
partisan factual misperceptions within ordinary news stories and has found
that this can sometimes be ineffective or even backfire, strengthening
the misperceptions in some cases (Nyhan & Reifler, 2010). In contrast to
the potentially trivial factual issues used in adwatches (Richardson, 1998),
these partisan factual misperceptions are chosen specifically because they
are thought to be strongly held by partisans, such as the belief among
Republicans that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction immediately
at the time of the U.S. invasion, or the belief among Democrats that
President Bush banned stem cell research in the United States. Backfire
effects in response to messages that counter strongly held beliefs are seen
as an indicator of defense-motivated reasoning (Kunda, 1990), which oper-
ates by a cognitive mechanism of disconfirmation bias in which a concerted
effort is made to find counterarguments against the received argument
(Edwards & Smith, 1996). A fruitful middle ground may exist between these
extremes, where the issues being adjudicated are important enough in the
context of the story for readers to care about the adjudication, but not so
tightly tied to prior partisan commitments that audiences strongly counter-
argue against the correction. One excellent recent experiment offers hope
that a journalist could avoid such backfire effects by removing partisan cues,
or even by simply acknowledging that there are some within each party who
side with the other party on the issue (Druckman, Peterson, & Slothuus,
2013). Druckman and colleagues understated the importance of their
findings by treating the presence of such mixed versus polarized cues in news
620 PINGREE, BROSSARD, MCLEOD
coverage as a direct result of elite partisan polarization, seeming to implicitly
assume that reporters have no control over the presence of such cues in news
content.
Thus, to minimize the chance of backfire effects, we examine effects of
a news story lacking in explicit partisan cues (although, of course, implicit
partisan associations are inevitable). Because backfire effects are still
possible, we do not make a directional prediction about the effects of adjudi-
cation on factual beliefs. Instead, we pose the following research question:
RQ1a: Will adjudication alter factual beliefs in accordance with the
adjudication, or in the opposite direction?
The backfire effects observed in past research on effects of fact-checking
in ordinary news stories (Nyhan & Reifler, 2010) were concentrated among
strong partisans whose predispositions were being challenged by the adjudi-
cation. Although our study is different from most of this research in that our
factual disputes lack explicit partisan cues, political ideology may still play
a similar role. Thus, it is important to examine the moderating role
of ideology because it is possible that even if a backfire effect does not occur
on average for all subjects, it may still occur for an ideological subgroup.
Therefore, we pose an additional research question examining the moderating
role of ideology in effects on factual beliefs.
RQ1b: Does ideology moderate the effects of adjudication on factual beliefs?
Perceived News Quality
As previously discussed, one factor limiting adjudication may be a fear among
journalists that adjudicated stories will be seen as lower quality journalism.
Although fear of being seen as biased is not the only barrier to adjudication,
it is one area in which research has the potential to inform journalists. At least
in the case of adwatches, empirical research already exists that does not
support journalists’ fears; adwatches did not decrease viewer ratings of the
quality of the news organization (Pfau & Louden, 1994). To date, there has
been no research on adjudication effects on audience perceptions of news
quality within news stories. It seems plausible that in news story contexts,
journalistic adjudication may substantially increase reader perceptions of
news quality. In particular, news stories without strong prior partisan associa-
tions and without explicit partisan cues may enhance positive responses to
adjudication by reducing message bias perceptions. In addition, as others
have pointed out (e.g., Ansolabehere & Iyengar, 1996), more complex,
realistic stories that involve multiple factual disputes between the same two
sides may provide opportunities for adjudication while minimizing audience
ADJUDICATION EFFECTS 621
bias judgments, when all claims are not adjudicated in favor of the same side.
Although research has not directly tested this possibility, an analogous
approach has been extensively studied in research on two-sided advertising
(Crowley & Hoyer, 1994; Eisend, 2006), as we discuss next in the section
on balanced adjudication. Thus, we pose the following research question:
RQ2: Does adjudication increase or decrease audience perceptions of news
story quality?
Future News Use
Another potential audience consequence of journalistic adjudication is its
impact on motivation to seek more information. On one hand, adjudication
could reduce future news use by satisfying information needs, reducing
motivation to seek additional information. On the other hand, if adjudi-
cation satisfies information needs it could also increase future news use by
creating a perception that news use will be similarly satisfying about other
informational needs. Thus, we pose two related research questions:
RQ3a: Does adjudication increase or decrease satisfaction of informational
needs?
RQ3b: Does adjudication increase or decrease likelihood of future news use?
Epistemic Political Efficacy
Finally, adjudication may also increase audience members’ epistemic
political efficacy (EPE), which is confidence in the ability to determine the
truth or falsity of factual political claims (Pingree, 2011; Pingree, Hill, &
McLeod, 2013). In contrast to traditional conceptions of political efficacy
that are primarily related to taking effective political action, EPE is
primarily related to understanding politics. As such, it may prove a more
relevant political efficacy construct in predicting behaviors related to a desire
to understand politics, such as information seeking, accuracy-motivated
reasoning (Kunda, 1990), deliberative discussion (Fearson, 1998), or spon-
taneous policy reasoning (Pingree, Scholl, & Quenette, 2012). The mechanism
by which adjudication may affect EPE is what Bandura (1982) called enactive
mastery. Enactive mastery is a process by which perceived personal successes
or failures at a task accumulate into self-efficacy about that task over time.
Enactive mastery is considered the primary determinant of reported self-
efficacy when memories of personal experiences at the task are available
and accessible. The cognitive task relevant to EPE is deciding which political
facts to believe. When news stories adjudicate factual disputes, they are pro-
viding additional information intended to facilitate this task. Thus, assuming
622 PINGREE, BROSSARD, MCLEOD
audience members do attempt this task, and assuming that adjudication
actually provides helpful information for this task, audiences should be more
likely to feel that they have succeeded at this task with adjudication than
without it. Adjudication is therefore expected to increase audience EPE by
creating a perceived success at the task of deciding which political facts to
believe. However, this requires that audience members make some effort at
the task of deciding which facts to believe, which suggests that prior interest
in the issues under dispute may be a crucial moderator of these effects. There-
fore, we make the following two predictions about the effects of adjudication
on epistemic political efficacy:
H1a: Adjudication will increase epistemic political efficacy.
H1b: Adjudication will increase epistemic political efficacy more for those with
higher prior issue interest than for those with lower prior issue interest.
METHOD
Participants and Procedures
The data for this study came from a web-based experiment with under-
graduate students (N¼436) enrolled in communication courses at a large
Midwestern university. Potential participants were recruited by offering
extra credit for their participation, and all actual participants were verified
as enrolled in undergraduate communication courses during the process of
awarding extra credit. Potential participants were contacted by e-mail and
given the website address of the online experiment. Those choosing to
participate were randomly assigned to manipulation conditions in which
they were exposed to different versions of a news story about a protest
against a corporation.
Experimental Design and Stimulus
This study used a between-subjects fully factorial 22 design with journal-
istic adjudication (adjudication vs. no adjudication) and corporate quotation
(whether a representative of the corporation being protested was quoted)
embedded in a stimulus news story. The corporate quote manipulation was
intended for other purposes beyond the scope of this article, although it is
included in all analyses for control purposes. Specifically, the corporate quote
manipulation consisted of one additional paragraph in which a spokesperson
for the corporation denies the allegations made by the protesters. The pres-
ence or absence of such a response quote was intended as a manipulation
of the strength of the ‘‘protest paradigm,’’ a common frame for social protest
ADJUDICATION EFFECTS 623
coverage in which the focus is on protesters versus police instead of the sub-
stantive claims made by protesters (Chan & Lee, 1984; McLeod & Hertog,
1999). For external validity, our stimulus story follows this overall protest
paradigm by beginning with conflict with police. This manipulation was
intended for a separate paper testing effects on attitudes about social protest
and is included here only for control purposes.
Within the adjudication condition, the two claims were presented in
random order, as was the direction of the adjudication of each claim (i.e.,
which claim was adjudicated in favor of each side). Note that for analyses
involving factual beliefs the adjudication factor effectively has three levels
instead of two—the counterbalancing of adjudication direction is used
as two separate adjudication treatments. This allows us to examine whether
adjudication supporting a particular factual belief increases that belief, or
whether it leads to a backfire effect of decreasing that belief. Thus, in the
analyses predicting the two factual beliefs, instead of a single two-level
factor indicating the presence or absence of the overall adjudication
manipulation, we will use two separate dummies each indicating the
presence of adjudication supporting one of the two beliefs, with the no
adjudication control condition as the missing dummy.
In our stimulus news story (see the appendix), a fictional protest group
made two allegations (loosely based on real news reports) against a fictional
company named Genco. The slavery allegation was that the company used
slave labor to manufacture inexpensive food products. The beef allegation
was that the company purchased cheap Brazilian beef, thereby contributing
to rain forest destruction. Three paragraphs were added to the story in the
adjudication condition (the italicized paragraphs in the appendix). First, one
paragraph stated, ‘‘Independent attempts to validate the protesters’ claims
have yielded mixed results.’’ This was followed by two randomly ordered
paragraphs, one citing evidence on the slavery allegation and another citing
evidence on the beef allegation. Participants in the adjudication condition
were randomly assigned to one of two versions of the adjudication in which
the facts either supported the slavery allegation while contradicting the beef
allegation or contradicted the slavery allegation while supporting the beef
allegation. Support or contradiction of each claim was manipulated by
changing single words, such as inserting the words ‘‘not’’ or ‘‘no,’’ or
replacing the word ‘‘supported’’ with ‘‘contradicted.’’
Measures
Except where otherwise noted, all items were assessed using 11-point scales
with 10 representing strongly agree and 0 representing strongly disagree.
These response categories allow for fine-grained responses that may
624 PINGREE, BROSSARD, MCLEOD
potentially improve the sensitivity of the resulting variables and generally
produce data with identical statistical characteristics (Dawes, 2008).
Dependent variables. The two factual beliefs were each measured using
a single item. The rain forest beef belief item was ‘‘The company probably
did use Brazilian beef’’ (M¼5.23, SD ¼2.04). The slave labor belief item was
‘‘The company probably did use slave labor’’ (M¼5.38, SD ¼2.02). News
story quality was an average of two items (r¼.365, M¼5.42, SD ¼1.53):
‘‘The article was biased’’ (reverse coded) and ‘‘The article was credible.’’
Satisfaction of informational needs (M¼4.10, SD ¼2.20) was a single item:
‘‘The article satisfied my need for information.’’ Future news use likelihood
(M¼5.75, SD ¼2.54) was a single item asking how likely participants would
be to ‘‘read another news story about related issues, if you encountered one’’
from notatalllikelyto very likely. Epistemic political efficacy (Cronbach’s
a¼.70, M¼5.06, SD ¼1.35) was an average of five items: ‘‘I feel confident that
I can find the truth about political issues,’’ ‘‘When I hear about disagreements
in the news it’s impossible to tell which side is right’’ (reverse coded), ‘‘It’s
impossible to know what’s really going on in politics’’ (reverse coded), ‘‘On
many controversies in the news, I just don’t know what to think’’ (reverse
coded), and ‘‘The details of political issues are confusing to me’’ (reverse coded).
Moderators. Two moderating variables, issue interest and ideology,
were measured prior to exposure to the stimulus. Issue interest was an
average of four items, two measuring interest in each of the two issues
relevant to the adjudication: ‘‘international environmental issues,’’
‘‘environmental issues in this country,’’ ‘‘international labor rights issues,
and ‘‘labor rights issues in this country.’’ Because the adjudication
addressed both issues together, and because the four items loaded on
a single factor in an exploratory factor analysis,
1
they were combined to
form a scale of interest in issues used in the stimulus (Cronbach’s a¼.85,
M¼6.21, SD ¼1.805). Ideology was a single item asking ‘‘Where would
you place yourself on the political spectrum?’’ (M¼3.87, SD ¼2.22) on
an 11-point scale from very liberal to very conservative.
Other variables included to check random assignment. Four other
variables were measured in the pretest for use only as checks on random
assignment, chosen because they were seen as potential confounds if
1
A single component with an eigenvalue above 1 (eigenvalue ¼2.77, 69.33% of variance
explained) was extracted using the generalized least squares method in SPSS. The next highest
two eigenvalues were .758 and .326, respectively explaining 18.95% and 8.14% of variance.
ADJUDICATION EFFECTS 625
substantially unevenly distributed across conditions. General political inter-
est was a single item asking ‘‘How interested are you in politics generally?’’
(M¼5.22, SD ¼2.62) from not at all interested to very interested. Media
trust (M¼3.58, SD ¼1.83) was a single item: ‘‘In general, mainstream
media can be trusted.’’ Closed-mindedness (Cronbach’s a¼.58, M¼4.87,
SD ¼1.58) was an average of three items from the closed-mindedness
subdimension of need for cognitive closure (Kruglanski, Weber, & Klem,
1993): ‘‘When thinking about a problem, I consider as many different
opinions on the issue as possible’’ (reverse coded), ‘‘When considering most
conflict situations, I can usually see how both sides could be right’’ (reverse
coded), and ‘‘I always see many possible solutions to problems I face’’
(reverse coded). Need for cognition (Cronbach’s a¼.72, M¼6.01,
SD ¼1.54) was an average of four items: ‘‘I prefer complex problems to
simple ones,’’ ‘‘Thinking is not my idea of fun’’ (reverse coded), ‘‘I only
think as hard as I have to’’ (reverse coded), and ‘‘I prefer my life to be filled
with puzzles I must solve.’’ Ttests comparing means of pretest variables
in the adjudication versus nonadjudication conditions were used to check
random assignment and found no significant differences. Specifically, no
significant differences were found in general political interest (t¼.77,
p¼.44), ideology (t¼.89, p¼.37), media trust (t¼1.08, p¼.28), need for
cognition (t¼1.00, p¼.32), closed mindedness (t¼.29, p¼.77), and issue
interest (t¼.10, p¼.92).
RESULTS
See Table 1 for a summary of the means and standard deviations of all
dependent variables across experimental conditions of adjudication versus
control, and also within the nested factor of the direction of the adjudi-
cation. A multivariate analysis of variance model was used to test the three
dependent variables for which there were no moderating variables. Ordinary
least squares (OLS) regression models were used to test effects on factual
beliefs and epistemic political efficacy in order to take advantage of the full
range of variance in the moderating variables of ideology and issue interest.
For RQ1a, the effects of adjudication on factual beliefs (see Figure 1),
and for RQ1b, the moderating role of ideology in these effects, results were
tested using four OLS regression models, two for each factual belief (see
Table 2). For each factual belief dependent variable, an unconditional
model (not including the moderator or its interaction terms) was used to test
the effects of adjudication on factual beliefs, and a conditional model was
then used to test the interaction of ideology with adjudication. For all four
models, two adjudication dummies were entered, one for the adjudication in
626 PINGREE, BROSSARD, MCLEOD
each direction. The control condition with no adjudication served as the
missing dummy and is thus the comparison point for any effects of the
two adjudication dummies. The other manipulation of whether the story
FIGURE 1 Effects of adjudication on factual beliefs. (Color figure available online.)
TABLE 1
Means and Standard Deviations of Dependent Variables by Adjudication Conditions
News story without
adjudication
News story with adjudication
Beef supported, slavery
contradicted
Beef contradicted,
slavery supported
Beef belief M¼5.10, SD ¼1.76 M¼6.45, SD ¼1.89 M¼4.42, SD ¼2.24
Slavery belief M¼5.23, SD ¼1.83 M¼4.69, SD ¼2.01 M¼6.33, SD ¼2.10
News story
quality
M¼5.23, SD ¼1.49 M¼5.64, SD ¼1.57
Satisfied info
needs
M¼3.80, SD ¼2.22 M¼4.45, SD ¼2.14
Future news
seeking
M¼5.56, SD ¼2.55 M¼5.97, SD ¼2.51
Epistemic
efficacy
M¼5.07, SD ¼1.32 M¼5.03, SD ¼1.40
Note. Means in this table were from variables measured with a possible range of 0 to 10.
ADJUDICATION EFFECTS 627
contained a corporate quotation was also included. The two adjudication
dummies in the two unconditional models constitute four distinct tests of
RQ1a, each of which was significant in the direction of the adjudication.
In other words, no backfire effects were found on either factual belief for
either version of balanced adjudication. Specifically, exposure to adjudication
supporting the beef belief increased agreement with the beef belief (b¼.278,
p<.001), exposure to adjudication contradicting the beef belief decreased
agreement with the beef belief (b¼.147, p<.01), exposure to adjudication
supporting the slavery belief increased agreement with the slavery belief
(b¼.242, p<.001), and exposure to adjudication contradicting the slavery
belief decreased agreement with the slavery belief (b¼.111, p<.05).
RQ1b, on the moderating role of political ideology in the effects of
adjudication on factual beliefs, was tested in the conditional models, which
included ideology and an interaction term between ideology and each
adjudication dummy. As shown in Table 2, neither of these interaction
terms was significant for either factual belief.
2
Thus, ideology did not signifi-
cantly condition the effects of adjudication overall. These two interaction
terms constitute the formal test of RQ1b. In addition, we conducted some
TABLE 2
Ordinary Least Squares Regressions Predicting Factual Beliefs
Slavery belief Beef belief
Model 1 Model 2 Model 1 Model 2
(Constant)
Adjudication 1: beef supported,
slavery contradicted
.111 .151 .278 .270
Adjudication 2: beef contradicted,
slavery supported
.242.206 .147 .191
Corporation quoted .074 .030 .038 .010
Ideology (conservative) .273 .190
Ideology Adjudication 1 .074 .008
Ideology Adjudication 2 .072 .094
Ideology Corporation Quoted .004 .025
Corporation Quoted Adjudication 1 .031 .002
Corporation Quoted Adjudication 2 .050 .036
Adjusted R
2
.088 .137 .117 .131
Note. Entries are standardized betas.
p<.05. p<.01. p<.001.
2
Note that to facilitate interpretation of the models in Table 2, ideology was centered
around the moderate midpoint response of 5 instead of the sample mean of 3.87. An alternative
version of the conditional models using mean centering produced essentially identical results.
628 PINGREE, BROSSARD, MCLEOD
supplemental analyses because the backfire effects found in other research
could perhaps still be occurring for an ideological subgroup despite the
nonsignificant overall interactions but without affecting enough of our
participants (or affecting them strongly enough) to result in a significant
interaction overall. We explored this possibility by estimating the effect size
for each observed value of the moderator using Andrew Hayes’s (2013)
PROCESS macro in the SPSS software program. For each of the four
combinations of the two adjudication directions and the two factual belief
dependent variables, we examined estimates of the effect of adjudication
on factual beliefs at each of the 11 possible values of ideology. Without
exception, all of the resulting 44 effect estimates were in the direction of
the adjudication. In other words, there were not even any nonsignificant
coefficients in the backfire direction, even at the extremes of ideology. Thus,
the lack of backfire effects at the ideological extremes cannot as easily be
dismissed as a result of insufficient statistical power because the direction
of adjudication effects remained in the direction of the adjudication even
at the endpoints of the ideology scale.
RQ2, RQ3a, and RQ3b concerned the unconditional effects of
adjudication on three dependent variables: news story quality, satisfaction
of information needs, and future news use likelihood. The means of all three
of these were higher in the adjudication condition than in the control
condition (see Table 1). Because these dependent variables were moderately
positively correlated, a single multivariate analysis of variance model was
used to test the significance of the main effects of adjudication on these three
outcomes (Table 3). This model included two fixed two-level factors for the
presence of adjudication or the corporate quote, and their interaction term.
The multivariate result was significant for adjudication (Pillai’s Trace¼.036),
F(3, 419) ¼5.27, p¼.001, and was not significant for corporate quote or for
the interaction term. Adjudication also significantly increased eachof the three
TABLE 3
Effects on News Evaluations and Future News Use
df
News story quality Satisfied info needs Future news use
Fpg
2
Fpg
2
Fpg
2
Corrected model 3,421 2.31 .075 .016 3.19 .024 .022 1.75 .157 .012
Intercept 1,421 5276 <.001 .926 1488 <.001 .780 2181 <.001 .838
Adjudication 1,421 6.85 .009 .016 9.27 .002 .022 3.95 .048 .009
Corporation quoted 1,421 .006 .939 <.001 .110 .741 <.001 1.51 .219 .004
Adjudication
Corp quoted
1,421 .003 .958 <.001 .213 .645 .001 .115 .735 <.001
ADJUDICATION EFFECTS 629
dependent variables. In answer to RQ2, the adjudication factor significantly
increased news story quality, F(1, 421) ¼6.849, p¼.009, g
2
¼.016; for
RQ3a, adjudication significantly increased satisfaction of informational needs,
F(1, 421) ¼9.268, p¼.002, g
2
¼.022; and for RQ3b, adjudication significantly
increased future news use likelihood, F(1, 421) ¼3.950, p¼.048, g
2
¼.009.
H1a and H1b, on effects of adjudication on EPE, were tested using two
OLS regressions (Table 4). To test the unconditional effect of adjudication
on EPE as hypothesized in H1a, the first model included only the two
two-level experimental factors. In this model, adjudication was not signifi-
cant (b¼.02, p¼.66). A conditional model tested whether adjudication
interacts with issue interest, as hypothesized by H1b, by also including issue
interest (mean centered), interaction terms between issue interest and each
experimental factor, and an interaction term between the two experimental
factors. In this model, the interaction between adjudication and issue inter-
est was significant in the predicted direction (b¼.081, one-tailed p¼.049).
However, this does not constitute a test of H1b because the same positive
interaction could be driven by a reduction in EPE for those with low issue
interest, instead of the hypothesized increase in EPE for those with high
issue interest. To investigate this possibility, we used the Johnson–Neyman
technique for estimating significance regions in Andrew Hayes’s (2013)
PROCESS macro in SPSS. The effect of adjudication was only significant
(one-tailed p<.05) at low levels of issue interest (below 3.15 on a scale
ranging from 0 to 10). In this range of issue interest values, the effect of
adjudication on EPE was negative (ranging from .81 at 0 issue interest
to .44 at 3). For values of issue interest of 7 and above, the effect of
adjudication was positive but not significant (ranging from .04 at 7 to .40
TABLE 4
Ordinary Least Squares Regressions Predicting Epistemic Political
Efficacy
Epistemic political efficacy
Model 1 Model 2
Adjudication .021 .022
Corporation quoted .070 .067
Issue interest .089
Issue Interest Adjudication .081
Issue Interest Corporation Quoted .000
Adjudication Corporation Quoted .046
Adjusted R
2
.001 .006
Note. Entries are standardized betas.
p<.05, one-tailed.
630 PINGREE, BROSSARD, MCLEOD
at 10). Because no significant positive effects of adjudication were found on
EPE at any level of issue interest, H1b was not supported.
DISCUSSION
Although many have criticized modern journalism for too rarely taking
an active role in adjudicating factual disputes, only a few studies have tested
effects of such passive journalism on audiences. Further, most of these
studies have used types of disputes that are arguably the most difficult for
journalists to adjudicate effectively. In particular, beliefs that are strongly
tied to partisan identities either due to their inherent centrality to partisan
belief systems or due to the inclusion of explicit partisan cues in the news
story itself are difficult because they make defense-motivated reasoning
likely among partisans (Edwards & Smith, 1996; Kunda, 1990). Inferences
of partisan bias may be particularly problematic in situations where the
adjudication favors only one side. In the case of adwatches that adjudicate
claims while rebroadcasting an ad, the adwatch needs to overcome the
persuasive influence of the ad itself. This study explored a different scenario,
testing effects of adjudication in a context where it seems most likely
to produce favorable audience outcomes. Specifically, we used a story about
a protest against a company that did not have explicit partisan cues and
used balanced adjudication in which each side was contradicted about one
of its factual claims and supported about another claim.
Factual beliefs were consistently and substantially affected in the
direction of the adjudication, in contrast to past research findings of backfire
effects resulting from attempts to correct misleading claims from candidates’
ads in special adwatch segments (Ansolabehere & Iyengar, 1996; McKinnon
& Kaid, 1999; Pfau & Louden, 1994) or in ordinary news coverage (Nyhan
& Reifler, 2010). There was no significant moderating role of ideology
on these effects. Even after estimating effects of adjudication on factual
beliefs at each individual value of ideology separately for each direction
of adjudication and each factual belief (for a total of 44 separate estimates),
every single effect estimate was in the direction of the adjudication instead of
the backfire direction. Further, contrary to concerns that some reporters
may have that any adjudication might be mistaken for bias and thus seen
as lower quality journalism (Jamieson & Waldman, 2003), news stories were
seen as significantly higher in quality with adjudication than without
it. Adjudication also increased audience satisfaction of informational needs
while increasing the likelihood of future news use, both of which should
further ease concerns reporters may have about adjudication not being
appreciated by their audiences.
ADJUDICATION EFFECTS 631
Our predictions about effects of adjudication on EPE were not supported.
Adjudication did not significantly increase EPE, even among those with
higher interest in the issue. However, adjudication did significantly decrease
EPE among those with lower interest. This contrasts with two other studies
on effects of adjudication, one of which found that adjudication increased
EPE regardless of interest (Pingree et al., 2013), whereas the other found
a significant increase in EPE for high interest readers and a nonsignificant
decrease in EPE for low interest readers (Pingree, 2011). The three studies
paint a consistent picture of this interaction if one accounts for the differ-
ences in interest in the issues examined. The study that found an uncon-
ditional increase in EPE may have done so because, as the authors
acknowledge, it used an issue the vast majority of readers were highly inter-
ested in at the time: the economy during the 2008 economic crisis (Pingree
et al., 2013). The issue in the 2011 study was a fictional health care bill,
a more moderately important issue on which respondents scored an average
of 7.10 on an issue importance scale ranging from 0 to 10 (between the means
of 6.21 in this study and 8.01 in the economic issues study). Further, issue inter-
est had low variance in the economic issues study (SD ¼1.32), with ‘‘only two
percent of our respondents scoring below the midpoint of our issue interest
scale’’ (Pingree et al., 2013, p. 13). For comparison, 25% of respondents in
the present study were below the midpoint on issue interest. Thus, the lack
of negative effects of adjudication on EPE for lower interest readers in the
economic issues study may have been due to a lack of lower interest readers.
The negative effects of adjudication on EPE among those with low issue
interest may be because low interest readers look for a trustworthy source
from which to take cues (Chaiken, 1980). Because our balanced adjudication
undermines the trustworthiness of the two sides of the dispute by contradicting
each side about one of their claims, it may make the dispute seem more difficult
to resolve for readers seeking such cues. Future research could better assess this
interpretation by including a condition in which the adjudication is one-sided,
which would present a simpler picture that might be more satisfying to the low
interest audience. The external generalizability of any effects on high-interest
readers may be stronger than on low-interest readers because, unlike in the
artificial setting of an experiment, real news consumption involves choices to
read (or pay attention to) stories based at least in part on prior issue interest.
Because of this possibility, and in view of the other more positive outcomes
of adjudication found here, we do not see these negative effects on low interest
readers as a reason to recommend against adjudication in general. However,
it could be taken as a warning to avoid adjudicating relatively trivial matters,
which reporters may sometimes do because it is easy or lower in risk, without
realizing it may reduce EPE among readers who would otherwise be interested
in more substantively important adjudication. Reporters could also perhaps
632 PINGREE, BROSSARD, MCLEOD
reduce the negative effects on low interest readers by providing some context
behind a factual dispute that explains why it is worth adjudicating. Future
experiments could test this possibility.
Although balanced adjudication may decrease the credibility of the two sides
of the dispute as previously noted, it may simultaneously increase the credibility
of the news source. Thus, as previously discussed, the balanced adjudication
used here may be analogous to two-sided advertising and may involve similar
mechanisms regarding the evaluation of message credibility (Crowley & Hoyer,
1994; Eisend, 2006; Settle & Golden, 1974). As in two-sided advertising, when
multiple factual claims are adjudicated in different directions in the same news
story, this may establish the credibility of the adjudication by making audiences
less likely to attribute the results to reporter bias. This experiment included only
balanced adjudication, so we cannot directly test the difference between
balanced and imbalanced adjudication using our data, but this could explain
some of the difference between our positive results and the backfire effects
found in some other research (McKinnon & Kaid, 1999; Nyhan & Reifler,
2010). Future experiments should directly compare news stories with balanced
adjudication to stories with imbalanced adjudications.
Several other limitations should be noted. First, adjudication was not
strictly isolated from story length, as the adjudication condition consisted
of a story with three additional adjudicating paragraphs, and the control
condition did not have any filler content to replace them. Thus, it is conceiv-
able that the effects here are merely effects of story length and not adjudi-
cation per se. This is primarily a concern for effects on perceived news
story quality and satisfaction of informational needs, as story length is an
easy heuristic some respondents may well have used in assessing the quality
of a story or the amount of information gained from it. Another study has
addressed this concern by including an alternative control condition with
filler content containing the same number of words as the adjudication
condition, finding effects of adjudication and no effects of story length
(Pingree, 2011). An additional methodological limitation is the single-item
measures available for both of the information-seeking outcomes. Multiple
item measures of these outcomes would reduce measurement error and thus
allow the use of smaller samples or detection of even smaller effects but
do not necessarily affect predictive validity (Bergkvist & Rossiter, 2007).
A more important limitation is the single message treatment design used
for our independent variable (Jackson & Jacobs, 1983). Conceptually, the
real independent variable of interest consists of two broad categories of
messages: news stories that adjudicate factual disputes and news stories that
do not adjudicate. We effectively operationalize these two broad categories
of messages each with a single example. This is not a major threat to internal
validity, as these two messages are identical except for the addition of
ADJUDICATION EFFECTS 633
adjudicating content. However, in terms of external validity, the effects found
here may not necessarily generalize to othernewsstories.Thisisaverycommon
limitation in experimental research in communication and can be addressed
with replication and=or by experiments that use multiple message versions
to operationalize each experimental cell (Jackson, O’Keefe, & Jacobs, 1989).
Overall, external validity is the most serious limitation of this study, as it is
with any experiment using undergraduate student subjects, but also in our
case due to the use of a context lacking in explicit partisan cues. These results
may not generalize to typical citizens or to news contexts that emphasize
partisan conflict as part of the ‘‘game structure’’ that has become dominant
in modern political coverage (Cappella & Jamieson, 1997; Lawrence, 2000;
Patterson, 1994). Of course, our stimulus story of a protest against
a company for its environmental and labor practices has ideological associa-
tions, but the two sides making the factual claims are not explicitly connected
in the text of the stimulus with partisan or ideological identities. Reporters
may often at least have the option to avoid bringing in explicit partisan cues
in coverage focused on issues as opposed to the ‘‘game’’ or competition
between political parties or partisan interests (Cappella & Jamieson, 1997;
Lawrence, 2000; Patterson, 1994). Thus our results may be more relevant
to more substantive issue-based stories as opposed to game-framed stories,
to the extent that the latter requires more of an emphasis on explicit partisan
cues. Future research should explore these effects in other contexts, such
as stories with weak or mixed partisan cues (as in Druckman et al., 2013),
or intraparty disputes such as those found in primary election coverage.
We can conclude from this study that in contrast to the somewhat bleak
picture painted by research showing backfire effects, under the right circum-
stances, adjudication may be beneficial both to the audience and to the news
source. It can benefit the audience by improving the correctness of their
factual beliefs, and it can benefit the news source by enhancing audience
perceptions of news quality and intention to seek more news. Future
research is needed to replicate these findings and clarify the conditions
under which these positive possibilities are realized. This study offers the
hope that robust positive effects of journalistic adjudication may be found
in contexts where a reporter can minimize partisan cues and where multiple
claims can be adjudicated including at least one in favor of each side.
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APPENDIX
Stimulus Story, With Adjudication Paragraphs Italicized and
Adjudication Direction Manipulation Bracketed
Genco Protesters Clash with Police
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published, April 24, 2006
636 PINGREE, BROSSARD, MCLEOD
Filed at 4:25 p.m. ET
Boston (AP)—What started as a peaceful demonstration outside the
corporate headquarters of Genco, the world’s largest restaurant supplier,
quickly turned into a violent confrontation between protesters and police.
Approximately 200 protesters gathered outside the Water Street entrance to
Genco’s headquarters early Friday morning. By the time the demonstration
was over, police had arrested 13 protesters.
After scuffles broke out with Genco, protesters moved into the street
bringing rush hour traffic to a halt. Frustrated motorists began honking
car horns and yelling back at the protesters, adding to the mayhem.
By the time that police arrived at the scene, several protesters were
spray-painting slogans on the side of the building. When protesters refused
police orders to disband, police began making arrests. It took roughly 50
officers, clad in riot gear, nearly 30 minutes to restore order.
‘‘These protesters have a right to their opinions, but when they start
damaging property and creating a public nuisance, they are going to jail,’’
said Boston Deputy Police Chief Robert Myers.
The protesters charged that the Boston-based Genco engages in immoral
business practices, including the use of slave labor to make inexpensive
chocolate at a production facility in Accra, Ghana.
The demonstrators also allege that Genco purchases beef from Brazil, which
they claim encourages rainforest destruction to clear room for cattle grazing.
Genco’s official product lists do not include Brazilian beef. However,
protesters claim that Genco re-labels the beef as domestic in order to sell
it to U.S. restaurants at inflated prices.
[The following paragraph appears only in the corporate quote condition]
Genco spokesperson Ray French said the company conducted its own
internal investigation of these charges and found no evidence of the use
of slave labor or Brazilian beef. ‘‘Protesters have been taken in by wild
speculation and rumor on the Internet,’’ said French.
Independent attempts to validate the protesters’ claims have yielded mixed
results.
ADJUDICATION EFFECTS 637
[The following two paragraphs were presented in the reverse order 50% of
the time]
On one hand, U.S. Customs Service records, which track all imported
agricultural products, [support=contradict] the charge that Genco purchases
Brazilian beef. A Freedom of Information Act request revealed [records=no
records] of such transactions for each year from 2000 through 2005.
However, a recent report issued by the United Nations [contradicts=supports]
the claim regarding the use of slave labor. A 2004 investigation by the U.N.
Commission on Human Rights into labor practices in several dozen major
facilities in Ghana identified 17 that use human slaves. The chocolate plant
operated by a Genco subsidiary was investigated, and was [not found=was
found] to use slavery.
A spokesperson for the protesters said that this issue is not over and that
until Genco changes its business practices, the protesters will keep coming
back.
638 PINGREE, BROSSARD, MCLEOD
... Journalists have traditionally followed the norm of objectivity by neutrally reporting multiple sides of a dispute, even if those accounts factually contradict one another (Bennett, 2016). Centrist news organizations often shy away from adjudicating factual disputes for fear of being labeled biased (Pingree et al., 2014), and often simply reflect what political actors say rather than sort out the truth for the audience (Bennett, 2016). This type of false balance or equivalence reporting makes it possible that exposure to centrist news will not improve belief accuracy for certain issues, as audiences (who hold prior beliefs about these issues) are presented both sides without much factual adjudication, leaving them confused, uncertain, or even wrong about the facts (Dixon and Clarke, 2013). ...
... Another possibility is the way centrist media cover issues associated with political falsehoods. As noted earlier, because journalists are often reluctant to strongly adjudicate factual disputes, or to clearly highlight when one politician or issue position is blatantly inaccurate (Bennett, 2016;Pingree et al., 2014), centrists news organizations' adherence to objectivity can create false balances or equivalencies that have the potential to confuse or even misinform. For example, media coverage that provides scientific evidence of the safety of vaccines alongside anti-vaccine claims promotes uncertainty about vaccine safety relative to coverage of the factual information alone (Dixon and Clarke, 2013). ...
Article
This study investigates the potential role both untrustworthy and partisan websites play in misinforming audiences by testing whether actual exposure to these sites is associated with political misperceptions. Using a sample of American adult social media users, we match data from individuals’ Internet browser histories with a survey measuring the accuracy of political beliefs. We find that visits to partisan websites are at times related to misperceptions consistent with the political bias of the site. However, we do not find strong evidence that untrustworthy websites consistently relate to false beliefs. There is also little evidence that visits to less partisan, centrist news sites are associated with more accurate political beliefs about these issues, suggesting that exposure to politically neutral news is not necessarily the antidote to misinformation. Results suggest that focusing on partisan news sites—rather than untrustworthy sites—may be fruitful to understanding how media contribute to political misperceptions.
... We follow the classic definitional distinctions in the political efficacy literature (e.g., Morrell, 2003;Niemi et al., 1991) for coding internal efficacy as measures that focus on individuals' beliefs about their own capacity to understand and engage in politics; external efficacy as beliefs about the political responsiveness to citizens; and general efficacy as all measures that reference the broad concept of political efficacy with no internal/external distinction. In addition, a number of specific political efficacy measures have emerged in the more recent literature that are not fully captured by these categories (Pingree et al., 2014). These measures are coded in our data as other efficacy, including measures of "collective efficacy," "self-efficacy," and "internet efficacy" (see Supplementary Material for documentation of the survey questions used for these "other efficacy" measures). ...
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[In press; article accepted on May 20, 2022] The rapid rise of digital media use for political participation has coincided with an increase in concerns about citizens' sense of their capacity to impact political processes. These dual trends raise the important question of how people's online political participation is connected to perceptions of their own capacity to participate in and influence politics. The current study overcomes the limitation of scarce high-quality cross-national and overtime data on these topics by conducting a meta-analysis of all extant studies that analyze how political efficacy relates to both online and offline political participation using data sources in which all variables were measured simultaneously. We identified and coded 48 relevant studies (with 184 effects) representing 51,860 respondents from 28 countries based on surveys conducted between 2000 and 2016. We conducted a multilevel random effects meta-analysis to test the main hypothesis of whether political efficacy has a weaker relationship with online political participation than offline political participation. The findings show positive relationships between efficacy and both forms of participation, with no distinction in the magnitude of the two associations. In addition, we tested hypotheses about the expected variation across time and democratic contexts, and the results suggest contextual variation for offline participation but cross-national stability for online participation. The findings provide the most comprehensive evidence to date that online participation is as highly associated with political efficacy as offline participation, and that the strength of this association for online political participation is stable over time and across diverse country contexts.
... 2007), zealotry can undermine democratic deliberation but it can also mobilize political participation. 9 By contrast, epistemic hubris does not appear to have any redeeming democratic qualities (Marietta and Barker 2019). While epistemic efficacy (the perception that one is competent enough to distinguish facts from falsehoods) is psychologically healthy and necessary for decision making (e.g., Farman et al. 2018;Pingree 2011;Pingree, Brossard, and McLeod 2014;Pingree, Hill, and McLeod 2013), such efficacy is to epistemic hubris as confidence is to overconfidence: the former inspires achievement but the latter inspires recklessness. ...
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Epistemic hubris—the expression of unwarranted factual certitude—is a conspicuous yet understudied democratic hazard. Here, in two nationally representative studies, we examine its features and analyze its variance. We hypothesize, and find, that epistemic hubris is (a) prevalent, (b) bipartisan, and (c) associated with both intellectualism (an identity marked by ruminative habits and learning for its own sake) and anti-intellectualism (negative affect toward intellectuals and the intellectual establishment). Moreover, these correlates of epistemic hubris are distinctly partisan: intellectuals are disproportionately Democratic, whereas anti-intellectuals are disproportionately Republican. By implication, we suggest that both the intellectualism of Blue America and the anti-intellectualism of Red America contribute to the intemperance and intransigence that characterize civil society in the United States.
... Instead, they have adopted rituals (Tuchman, 1978) like news formats and the reliance on official sources. They frequently cover stories by attempting to balance contending perspectives in the practice of "this side said/that side said" journalism while abdicating much of the responsibility of declaring which side's arguments carry more weight (Pingree, Brossard, & McLeod, 2014). ...
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This review explicates the past, present and future of theory and research concerning audience perceptions of the media as well as the effects that perceptions of media have on audiences. Before the sections that examine media perceptions and media effects perceptions, we first identify various psychological concepts and processes involved in generating media-related perceptions. In the first section, we analyze two types of media perceptions: media trust/credibility perceptions and bias perceptions, focusing on research on the Hostile Media Perception. In both cases, we address the potential consequences of these perceptions. In the second section, we assess theory and research on perceptions of media effects (often referred to as Presumed Influence) and their consequences (referred to as the Influence of Presumed Influence). As examples of Presumed Influence, we evaluate the literature on the Persuasive Press Inference and the Third-Person Perception. The bodies of research on media perceptions and media effects perceptions have been featured prominently in the top journals of the field of mass communication over the past 20 years. Here we bring them together in one synthetic theoretical review.
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Misinformation has developed into a critical societal threat that can lead to disastrous societal consequences. Although fact-checking plays a key role in combating misinformation, relatively little research has empirically investigated work practices of professional fact-checkers. To address this gap, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 21 fact-checkers from 19 countries. The participants reported being inundated with information that needs filtering and prioritizing prior to fact-checking. The interviews surfaced a pipeline of practices fragmented across disparate tools that lack integration. Importantly, fact-checkers lack effective mechanisms for disseminating the outcomes of their efforts which prevents their work from fully achieving its potential impact. We found that the largely manual and labor intensive nature of current fact-checking practices is a barrier to scale. We apply these findings to propose a number of suggestions that can improve the effectiveness, efficiency, scale, and reach of fact-checking work and its outcomes.
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Research indicates that fact-checking has inconsistent effects on our beliefs and behavioral intentions about disinformation. But would it help if we source news from highly credible source and/or fact-check them using highly credible fact-checkers? This study explores this question by postulating the direct and interaction effects of news source credibility and fact-checker credibility on online users’ believability perceptions, reading intention, and sharing intention. These hypotheses are tested using an online experiment in a public health (COVID-19) context. Multi-level analysis of within-subject data suggest a nuanced pattern of effects, in which news source credibility has a positive main effect on believability but negative effects on reading and sharing intention. Fact-checking credibility has a positive main effect on believability, but no effects on reading or sharing intentions, but interestingly, negatively moderates the effects of source credibility on all three dependent variables. The implications of these findings for fact-checking research and practice are discussed.
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An online experiment tested the influence of “he said/she said” coverage versus active adjudication of factual disputes, as well as strategy versus policy framing in postdebate news coverage. Adjudication in policy-framed stories increased epistemic political efficacy (EPE), a measure of confidence in one’s own ability to determine the truth in politics. However, adjudicated policy stories also elicited greater cynicism than passive policy framing. This suggests a caveat for the spiral of cynicism, calling into question its assumption that all policy framing behaves similarly in reducing cynicism. Results also provide several forms of evidence that effects of adjudication on EPE differ from spiral of cynicism effects while further validating the EPE construct as distinct from the reverse of political cynicism. Adjudication also positively affected evaluations of the coverage as interesting and informative.
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Consumer confidence in advertising claims and their expectancy of product value were experimentally measured under two conditions for five product ads. As suggested by attribution theory, when superiority was disclaimed for some product characteristics, confidence increased and value expectation equaled that obtained when all were claimed superior.