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Learning about Politics from The Daily Show: The Role of Processing Motivations
Unformatted Document Text:  Learning from The Daily Show 6 likely to approach it as entertainment than they would a traditional television news broadcast, The Daily Show likely inspires variation among individuals in terms of how they orient toward its content, with some seeing it as news, some as entertainment, and others a hybrid of the two. Of interest to this study is whether such differences in orientation could have consequences for how much viewers process and learn about politics from Daily Show content. Processing Goals and Learning from Late-Night Comedy Existing research and theory suggest that the way in which viewers characterize, or orient to, media messages can influence how they process and learn from those messages. The uses and gratifications tradition has produced an extensive body of research (see Rubin, 2002, for a review) to suggest that the communication experience is largely defined by the purposes to which media are put. In particular, use of the news for surveillance or information has been associated with higher levels of knowledge and recall than when news is employed for diversionary purposes (e.g., Gantz, 1978; Neuman, 1976; Perse, 1990; Vincent & Basil, 1997). Eveland’s (2001) cognitive mediation model further expands on the role surveillance motivations play in learning from the news, by demonstrating an indirect effect via cognitive elaboration. Research in the area of political comedy further suggests that any distinction viewers make between information and entertainment carries important consequences for information processing. For example, Young (2008) found that humorous political messages were less likely to provoke counter-arguing among audience members than non-humorous messages and that this reduction in argument scrutiny was driven, in part, by how audience members categorized the stimuli (as serious or funny). Nabi, Moyer-Guse, and Byrne (2007) likewise found that perceived humor in a comedic political message increased message discounting, in that highly humorous content was more likely to be dismissed as irrelevant or “just a joke” by audiences than less

Authors: Feldman, Lauren.
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Learning from The Daily Show
6
likely to approach it as entertainment than they would a traditional television news broadcast, 
The Daily Show likely inspires variation among individuals in terms of how they orient toward 
its content, with some seeing it as news, some as entertainment, and others a hybrid of the two. 
Of interest to this study is whether such differences in orientation could have consequences for 
how much viewers process and learn about politics from Daily Show content. 
Processing Goals and Learning from Late-Night Comedy
Existing research and theory suggest that the way in which viewers characterize, or orient 
to, media messages can influence how they process and learn from those messages. The uses and 
gratifications tradition has produced an extensive body of research (see Rubin, 2002, for a 
review) to suggest that the communication experience is largely defined by the purposes to 
which media are put. In particular, use of the news for surveillance or information has been 
associated with higher levels of knowledge and recall than when news is employed for 
diversionary purposes (e.g., Gantz, 1978; Neuman, 1976; Perse, 1990; Vincent & Basil, 1997). 
Eveland’s (2001) cognitive mediation model further expands on the role surveillance motivations 
play in learning from the news, by demonstrating an indirect effect via cognitive elaboration. 
Research in the area of political comedy further suggests that any distinction viewers 
make between information and entertainment carries important consequences for information 
processing. For example, Young (2008) found that humorous political messages were less likely 
to provoke counter-arguing among audience members than non-humorous messages and that this 
reduction in argument scrutiny was driven, in part, by how audience members categorized the 
stimuli (as serious or funny). Nabi, Moyer-Guse, and Byrne (2007) likewise found that perceived 
humor in a comedic political message increased message discounting, in that highly humorous 
content was more likely to be dismissed as irrelevant or “just a joke” by audiences than less 


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