Graham Dixon will be presenting his award winning paper “Affective arousal and online risk information seeking: The role of emotional exemplars in online comment reading” at this year’s National Communication Association annual conference in Chicago, IL. His paper won an award for being one of the top four student papers in the Mass Communication Division.
Faced with evidence that online incivility leads to undesirable effects, many online news outlets have banned user anonymity or removed comments sections altogether. However, to what extent do people read online comments and what factors play a role? This study examines the role of affect-inducing message stimuli in online information seeking behavior. In an experiment, participants (n=520) were randomly assigned to articles with either a negative visual or no visual. Participants could read user comments below the article by clicking on a link. Exposure to visuals aroused negative affect, which positively influenced online comment reading. The findings illustrate that the propensity to which online material elicits negative affect can influence how consumers use online features to seek information.