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The Engaging Effect of Exemplars: How an Emotional Reaction Towards Similar People Sparks Political Participation

Mon, May 29, 14:00 to 15:15, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Floor: 2, Indigo Ballroom H


Journalists often use ordinary people as exemplars in their news stories to make their reports more interesting and understandable for the audience. This journalistic practice has often been discussed as a potential democratic problem because of its effects on perceptions of and attitudes towards political issues. Taking exemplification theory as our starting point and drawing on research from decision-making literature, we add to this discussion by examining how exemplars in news reports affect people’s political participation. Using an experimental design we randomly exposed respondents to a news report with or without exemplars or no news report at all. We found that for respondents who were similar to the exemplars, exposure to a news report with exemplars triggered empathy and increased political participation. For dissimilar respondents, exposure to a news report with exemplars decreased their empathy, which in turn decreased their political participation.