Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Paul D. Windschitl
In general, people prefer information that makes them look and feel good. This is information that is consistent with, or supportive of, their desires, beliefs, and behaviors. Much research has been devoted to examining biases in how we selectively seek some information and avoid other information as well as different factors that can mitigate or intensify these tendencies. The present project explored the impact of feeling powerful—a psychological experience shown to influence cognitions and behavior—on decisions about what information people choose to consume in a health context. Specifically, this was investigated in two different domains of health information consumption—selective exposure (Studies 1 & 2) and information avoidance (Studies 3 & 4). The first two studies investigated if feeling powerful affects selection of, or interest in, information known to be consistent or inconsistent with beliefs and behaviors. It was predicted that power would increase interest in belief-consistent (i.e., non-threatening) information. The final two studies examined how power impacts decisions about whether to receive or avoid an uncertain piece of health information that is potentially threatening. Contrary to selective exposure hypotheses, it was predicted that power would increase interest in this uncertain (i.e., threatening) information.
All four studies revealed null largely effects of power, suggesting that feeling powerful may not influence how people chose to consume potentially threatening health information. A discussion of the potential limitations of these studies and the scope of this conclusion are included.
Health Decision Making, Information Avoidance, Power, Selective Exposure
Copyright 2016 Jillian O'Rourke Stuart