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Learning about Politics from The Daily Show: The Role of Processing Motivations
Unformatted Document Text:  Learning from The Daily Show 7 humorous content. This discounting was, in turn, associated with decreased depth of message processing. Along similar lines, Kim and Vishak (2008) found that viewers of The Daily Show and network news engaged in different information processing patterns. Experimental subjects randomly assigned to view The Daily Show tended to employ on-line processing, forming their judgments on the fly using an affective tally, whereas those assigned to view network news were more likely to use memory-based processing, basing their judgments on information called up from long-term memory. As an explanation for this finding, Kim and Vishak suggested that individuals’ processing goals may have been instantaneously formed at the moment of exposure, based on preconceptions about the two types of media content. Taken together, this research suggests that it is viewers’ motivations toward media content and not the medium per se that best explains learning effects. Moreover, news motivations appear to be amenable to external manipulation. Experimental studies have shown that specifying particular consumption goals can influence how individuals process and learn from political news (Tewksbury, 1999). Specifically, Tewksbury found that, when asked to watch a television news profile of a political candidate, individuals who were told to evaluate the candidate processed the news more systematically and recalled more information about the candidate’s issues positions than those who were told to simply relax while watching the broadcast. In a related line of research, Salomon (1984; Salomon & Leigh, 1984) has argued that culturally-shared preconceptions about print and television determine the amount of effortful processing children will devote to material from each medium, irrespective of the amount of effort the material actually warrants. Because television is perceived as highly familiar, over- learned, and lifelike – and thus, requiring little mental effort – children devote fewer cognitive

Authors: Feldman, Lauren.
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Learning from The Daily Show
7
humorous content. This discounting was, in turn, associated with decreased depth of message 
processing. Along similar lines, Kim and Vishak (2008) found that viewers of The Daily Show 
and network news engaged in different information processing patterns. Experimental subjects 
randomly assigned to view The Daily Show tended to employ on-line processing, forming their 
judgments on the fly using an affective tally, whereas those assigned to view network news were 
more likely to use memory-based processing, basing their judgments on information called up 
from long-term memory. As an explanation for this finding, Kim and Vishak suggested that 
individuals’ processing goals may have been instantaneously formed at the moment of exposure, 
based on preconceptions about the two types of media content. Taken together, this research 
suggests that it is viewers’ motivations toward media content and not the medium per se that best 
explains learning effects. 
Moreover, news motivations appear to be amenable to external manipulation. 
Experimental studies have shown that specifying particular consumption goals can influence 
how individuals process and learn from political news (Tewksbury, 1999). Specifically, 
Tewksbury found that, when asked to watch a television news profile of a political candidate, 
individuals who were told to evaluate the candidate processed the news more systematically and 
recalled more information about the candidate’s issues positions than those who were told to 
simply relax while watching the broadcast. 
In a related line of research, Salomon (1984; Salomon & Leigh, 1984) has argued that 
culturally-shared preconceptions about print and television determine the amount of effortful 
processing children will devote to material from each medium, irrespective of the amount of 
effort the material actually warrants. Because television is perceived as highly familiar, over-
learned, and lifelike – and thus, requiring little mental effort – children devote fewer cognitive 


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