Coronel, J.C., Ott, J., Hubner, A., Sweitzer, M.D., & Lerner, S. (2023). How are competitive framing environments transformed by person-to-person communication? An integrated social transmission, content analysis, and eye movement monitoring approach. Communication Research, 50, 3-29.
(Top Paper award from NCA's Political Communication Division)
Person-to-person communication is ubiquitous in everyday life, yet the literature on framing has not examined how the content and number of frames change when transmitted across individuals. In Study 1, we use the serial reproduction paradigm to examine how person-to-person communication and message length influence the number of frames in the information environment. In Study 2, we use eye movement monitoring to examine whether individuals direct greater attention to pro- or counter-attitudinal frames in a competitive framing environment. We find that the process of retelling frames from person to person can transform an environment containing multiple competing frames into an environment with a single frame. This is important given work showing that framing effects in competitive environments are more likely to cancel out. Furthermore, message length and prior attitudes play important roles in determining whether individuals direct attention to, remember, and transmit frames.
Moore, R.C., Coronel, J.C., Bullock, O.M., Lerner, S., & Sheehan, M.P. (2023). Political information search in “noisy” online environments: Insights from an experiment examining older and younger adults’ searches on smartphones and laptops. Journal of Information Technology & Politics.
An important problem voters face is that they frequently encounter unfamiliar candidates and policies during elections. The Internet provides a solution to this problem by allowing voters to access vast amounts of information using communication technologies like laptops and smartphones. However, the online environment is “noisy,” containing information both relevant and irrelevant to any given query. Existing research has not examined whether voters are able to discriminate between relevant and irrelevant political information during online search and how this discrimination ability influences voting decisions. We conducted a preregistered experimental study (N = 128; 64 younger participants and 64 older participants) in which we created our own search engine and webpages about political candidates to examine people’s discrimination ability during search. We found that people’s ability to discriminate between relevant and irrelevant facts during search increased the likelihood that their later vote choices were influenced by relevant (instead of irrelevant) information. In addition, older and younger adults’ discrimination abilities did not differ between searches on smartphones or laptops. Our findings demonstrate a new way to integrate theories of political behavior and communication technology and highlight information search in “noisy” online environments as an important problem faced by voters in democracies.
Moore, R.M., & Coronel, J.C. (2022). Interpersonal discussion and political knowledge: Unpacking the black box via a combined experimental and content-analytic approach. Human Communication Research, 48, 230-264.
Over 130 studies have examined the relationship between interpersonal political discussion and political knowledge, generally finding that discussion can increase people’s level of political knowledge (Amsalem & Nir, 2019). However, two important questions remain unanswered: (a) Do some types of political discussions facilitate greater levels of political knowledge than others? (b) Do people retain knowledge gained from political discussions? In this study (N = 96), we addressed these questions using a novel methodological approach that combines a lab experiment, in which we manipulated the occurrence of political discussion, with a systematic content analysis of participants’ discussions (N = 1,080 distinct instances of discussions). We found that discussions involving confirmatory feedback and cueing were associated with greater levels of political knowledge than other types of discussions. Furthermore, knowledge gains from discussion were not retained after a short delay. Our study lays the theoretical and methodological groundwork for future investigations into the “black box” of political discussion.
Coronel, J.C., O'Donnell, M.B., Beard, E., Hamilton, R.H., & Falk, E.B. (2022). Evaluating didactic and exemplar information: Non-invasive brain stimulation reveals message-processing mechanisms. Communication Research, 49, 268-295.
People in their everyday lives encounter claims about various health, political, and economic issues. These claims are often supported by evidence based on didactic or exemplar information. In the research reported here, we use a noninvasive brain stimulation technique (transcranial Direct Current Stimulation [tDCS]) to examine the cognitive mechanisms underlying people’s ability to support or refute claims conveyed by messages that contain didactic or exemplar information. Our results are consistent with the notion that the evaluation of didactic-based evidence engages more deliberative cognitive processes than the evaluation of exemplar information. Our study highlights the utility of tDCS in the study of message processing by demonstrating how it can be used to test the assumptions of message-processing theories.
Coronel, J.C., Bullock, O.M., Shulman, H.C., Sweitzer, M.D., Bond, R.M., & Poulsen, S. (2021). Eye movements predict large-scale voting decisions. Psychological Science, 32, 836-848.
More than 100 countries allow people to vote directly on policies in direct democracy elections (e.g., 2016 Brexit referendum). Politicians are often responsible for writing ballot language, and voters frequently encounter ballot measures that are difficult to understand. We examined whether eye movements from a small group of individuals can predict the consequences of ballot language on large-scale voting decisions. Across two preregistered studies (Study 1: N = 120 registered voters, Study 2: N = 120 registered voters), we monitored laboratory participants’ eye movements as they read real ballot measures. We found that eye-movement responses associated with difficulties in language comprehension predicted aggregate voting decisions to abstain from voting and vote against ballot measures in U.S. elections (total number of votes cast = 137,661,232). Eye movements predicted voting decisions beyond what was accounted for by widely used measures of language difficulty. This finding demonstrates a new way of linking eye movements to out-of-sample aggregate-level behaviors.
Coronel, J.C., O'Donnell, M.B., Pandey, P., Delli Carpini, M.X., & Falk, E.B. (2021). Political humor, sharing, and remembering: Insights from neuroimaging. Journal of Communication, 71, 129-161.
Over the last two decades, news-oriented comedy programs have risen to compete with traditional hard news media as sources of information about politics. To the extent that a politically knowledgeable electorate is necessary for a thriving democracy, understanding the mechanisms underlying the extent to which political comedy facilitates or inhibits a well-informed citizenry is critical. Across two studies, we use behavioral experiments and neuroimaging to examine the causal effects of humor on the desire to share and the capacity to remember political information. We find that humor increases the likelihood to share political information with others and enhances people’s memory for information. Humor also increases brain response in regions associated with understanding other people’s mental states (i.e., mentalizing), which advances a theoretical framework that humor may facilitate considerations of others’ views (e.g., how other people will respond to shared political information).
Coronel, J.C., Ott, J., Moore, R.C., & deBuys, B. (2021). Do gender cues from images supersede partisan cues conveyed via text? Eye movements reveal political stereotyping in multimodal information environments. Political Communication 38, 281-304.
An important feature of the information environment is its multimodal nature. In politics, people encounter representations of political candidates that combine images and text. Among the most prominent pieces of information people encounter are a candidate’s gender, obtained from images of the candidate’s face, and the candidate’s partisan identification, often represented as text. This feature of the environment is important given previous work showing that individuals infer gender categories from faces rapidly and effortlessly. In this study (N = 113), we use eye movements to determine how individuals assign stereotypical policy positions to candidates in an environment in which photos of candidates’ faces are paired with labels of their partisan IDs. We find that politically-knowledgeable individuals are more likely to use partisan- than gender-based stereotypes. In contrast, political novices did not prioritize one type of stereotype over the other. Our findings have implications for understanding how individuals make political evaluations in multimodal settings and show the advantages of measuring eye movements when studying stereotyping in multimodal environments.
Coronel, J.C., Poulsen, S. & Sweitzer, M.D. (2020). Investigating the generation and spread of numerical misinformation: A combined eye movement monitoring and social transmission approach. Human Communication Research, 46, 25-54.
Numerical facts play a prominent role in public discourse, but individuals often provide incorrect estimates of policy-relevant numerical quantities (e.g., the number of immigrants in the country). Across two studies, we examined the role of schemas in the creation of numerical misinformation, and how misinformation can spread via person-to-person communication. In our first study, we combined eye movement monitoring and behavioral methods to examine how schemas distorted what people remembered about policy-relevant numerical information. Then, in a second study, we examined the consequences of these memory distortions via the social transmission of numerical information, using the serial reproduction paradigm. We found that individuals misremembered numerical information in a manner consistent with their schemas, and that person-to-person transmission can exacerbate these memory errors. Our studies highlight the mechanisms supporting the generation and spread of numerical misinformation and demonstrate the utility of a multi-method approach in the study of misinformation.
Coronel, J.C., & Bucy, E. (2020). A cognitive neuroscience perspective on political knowledge, misinformation, and memory for “facts”. In K. Floyd & R. Weber (Eds.), Handbook of Communication Science and Biology. New York, NY: Routledge.
Coronel, J.C., Amill, D.A. & Drouin, E., (2019). Two-way translation: Advancing knowledge of politics and psychology via the study of bilingual voters. Psychology of Learning and Motivation, 71, 39-65.
The number of bilingual voters in the United States is at an all-time high. As a consequence, political candidates and interest groups often engage in persuasive communications in languages other than English; some states translate ballots measures into multiple languages, and disinformation campaigns are conducted using several languages. However, we still know very little about how this multilingual information environment affects voters’ political attitudes and behaviors. In this chapter, we make two points. First, we argue that political scientists and communication researchers can use basic insights from psychology to advance our understanding of how bilingual voters make sense of the political world. Second, studying bilingual decision making in the domain of politics can provide psychologists with important theoretical insights into how the information environment interacts with psychological processes to influence behaviors. To best illustrate our arguments, we use examples from three important domains: voting, political persuasion, and the generation and spread of political misinformation
Coronel, J.C., & Sweitzer, M.D. (2018). Remembering political messages in dynamic information environments: Insights from eye movements. Human Communication Research, 44, 374-398.
(Top Paper award from ICA's Communication Science and Biology Interest Group)
An important but understudied characteristic of the information environment involves political information changing across time. This dynamic feature of the environment can make it difficult for voters to possess accurate political knowledge. In this study, we assessed memory for political information using self-report and eye movement methods. We used these metrics to examine how individuals learn facts about policies whose important features have changed across time. We find that eye movements can accurately assess changes in political information even when self-reports fail to do so. Our results highlight the utility of a converging methods approach in the study of dynamic information environments, and specify mechanisms that facilitate or inhibit people’s capacity to recognize changes in political information.
McKnight, J., & Coronel, J.C. (2017). Evaluating scientists as sources of science information: Evidence from eye movements. Journal of Communication, 67, 565-585.
In the new information environment, individuals can be exposed to different scientists who disseminate information on scientific topics which may or may not be in the scientist's area of expertise. The current study investigates people's ability to evaluate finer, but critical, distinctions in expertise. We use eye movements and self-report measures to determine the extent to which individuals retrieve, from their memories, professional facts about scientists that signal their area of expertise. Our results suggest that individuals can discern expert from nonexpert scientist sources but self-report measures may not accurately reflect this phenomenon, thus highlighting the value of a converging methods approach. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings.
Coronel, J.C., & Falk, E.B. fMRI and communication science (2017). In J. Matthes, C.S.Davis, & R.F. Potter (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods.John Wiley & Sons.
Coronel, J.C., & Federmeier, K.D. (2016). The effects of gender cues and political sophistication on candidate evaluation: A comparison of self-report and eye movement measures of stereotyping. Communication Research, 43, 922-944.
Gender-based political stereotypes pervade the media environment in the United States, and this may cause voters to automatically activate these stereotypes while evaluating politicians. In the research reported here, we investigate whether voters are able to reduce the automatic activation of unwanted stereotypes and how political sophistication influences this capacity. The current experiment uses self-reports to measure controlled stereotyping, and we develop a new eye movement metric to measure automatic stereotyping. We find that political sophisticates are more effective than novices at reducing unwanted gender-based political stereotypes. This study has two main implications for communication research. First, the results suggest that the effects of gender-based automatic stereotyping—induced by the information environment—on political judgments may not be as powerful as some of the current literature portrays them to be. Second, this study adds eye movements to the arsenal of tools available to communication scholars interested in measuring covert forms of stereotyping.
Coronel, J.C., & Federmeier, K.D. (2016). The N400 reveals how personal semantics is processed: Insights into the nature and organization of self-knowledge. Neuropsychologia, 84, 36-43.
There is growing recognition that some important forms of long-term memory are difficult to classify into one of the well-studied memory subtypes. One example is personal semantics. Like the episodes that are stored as part of one's autobiography, personal semantics is linked to an individual, yet, like general semantic memory, it is detached from a specific encoding context. Access to general semantics elicits an electrophysiological response known as the N400, which has been characterized across three decades of research; surprisingly, this response has not been fully examined in the context of personal semantics. In this study, we assessed responses to congruent and incongruent statements about people's own, personal preferences. We found that access to personal preferences elicited N400 responses, with congruency effects that were similar in latency and distribution to those for general semantic statements elicited from the same participants. These results suggest that the processing of personal and general semantics share important functional and neurobiological features.
Falk, E.B., Cascio, C.N., & Coronel, J.C. (2015). Neural prediction of communication-relevant outcomes. Communication Methods and Measures, 9, 30-54.
Understanding the mechanisms of effective communication may be advanced by knowledge from social and cognitive neuroscience. We build on prior brain research that mapped mental processes, and describe a brain-as-predictor approach that encompasses studies that treat measures of brain activity in response to communication relevant tasks as: 1) mediators between communication relevant stimuli and outcomes, 2) moderators of the relationship between communication relevant stimuli and outcomes or 3) direct predictors of communication relevant outcomes. In this article, we give a detailed description of the brain-as-predictor approach and provide a guide and checklist for interested authors, reviewers and editors. We discuss how the approach can provide theoretical insights and advance practical applications in communication research. Given its potential for advancing theory and practice, we argue that the brain-as-predictor approach can complement other communication research methods and serve as a valuable addition to the communication science toolbox.
Coronel, J.C., Federmeier, K.D., & Gonsalves, B.D. (2014). Event-related potential evidence suggesting voters remember political events that never happened. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 9, 358-366.
Voters tend to misattribute issue positions to political candidates that are consistent with their partisan affiliation, even though these candidates have never explicitly stated or endorsed such stances. The prevailing explanation in political science is that voters misattribute candidates' issue positions because they use their political knowledge to make educated but incorrect guesses. We suggest that voter errors can also stem from a different source: false memories. The current study examined event-related potential (ERP) responses to misattributed and accurately remembered candidate issue information. We report here that ERP responses to misattributed information can elicit memory signals similar to that of correctly remembered old information--a pattern consistent with a false memory rather than educated guessing interpretation of these misattributions. These results suggest that some types of voter misinformation about candidates may be harder to correct than previously thought.
Coronel, J.C., & Federmeier, K.D. (2014). Task demands modulate decision and eye movement responses in the chimeric face test: Examining the right hemisphere processing account. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 229.
A large and growing body of work, conducted in both brain-intact and brain-damaged populations, has used the free viewing chimeric face test as a measure of hemispheric dominance for the extraction of emotional information from faces. These studies generally show that normal right-handed individuals tend to perceive chimeric faces as more emotional if the emotional expression is presented on the half of the face to the viewer's left (“left hemiface”). However, the mechanisms underlying this lateralized bias remain unclear. Here, we examine the extent to which this bias is driven by right hemisphere processing advantages vs. default scanning biases in a unique way—by changing task demands. In particular, we compare the original task with one in which right-hemisphere-biased processing cannot provide a decision advantage. Our behavioral and eye movement data are inconsistent with the predictions of a default scanning bias account and support the idea that the left hemiface bias found in the chimeric face test is largely due to strategic use of right hemisphere processing mechanisms.
Coronel, J.C., Duff, M.C., Warren, D.E., Gonsalves, B.D., Federmeier, K.D., Tranel, D.T., & Cohen, N.J. (2012). Remembering and voting: Theory and evidence from amnesic patients. American Journal of Political Science, 56, 837-848.
One of the most prominent claims to emerge from the field of public opinion is that citizens can vote for candidates whose issue positions best reflect their own beliefs even when they cannot remember previously learned stances associated with the candidates. The current experiment provides a unique and powerful examination of this claim by determining whether individuals with profound amnesia, whose severe memory impairments prevent them from remembering specific issue information associated with any particular candidate, can vote for candidates whose issue positions come closest to their own political views. We report here that amnesic patients, despite not being able to remember any issue information, consistently voted for candidates with favored political positions. Thus, sound voting decisions do not require recall or recognition of previously learned associations between candidates and their issue positions. This result supports a multiple memory systems model of political decision making.
Coronel, J.C., & Kuklinski, J.H. (2012). Political psychology at Stony Brook: A retrospective. Critical Review, 24, 185-198.
During the 1970s and 1980s, political psychologists at the State University of New York at Stony Brook focused political scientists’ attention on online processing. Borrowing from the new field of social cognition in psychology, they argued that voters’ evaluations of candidates are the products of a summing up of reactions to happenings during a campaign. Voters might not remember the specific events later on, but their running tallies of reactions over the duration of the campaign would ensure that they take the forgotten information into account when entering the voting booth. Later, these same scholars yet again borrowed from (a very changed) psychology, and argued that many people, especially the most politically sophisticated, try to confirm their current political evaluations—for example, by seeking out confirmatory evidence and dismissing evidence that challenges their attitudes. We ask whether online processing and motivated reasoning have the same or different implications for democratic governance, and whether the two empirical perspectives can be reconciled.