Selective Exposure to Communication

By Dolf Henry Zillmann; Jennings P. Bryant | Go to book overview

1
Selective-Exposure Phenomena

Dolf Zillmann Indiana University Jennings Bryant University of Houston

At any moment, an enormity of stimuli impinges on the living organism. The organism neither is equipped to handle this stimulus onslaught, nor would it be meaningful in terms of self- and species-preservation to accomplish such a task. Survival, it seems, is well served by the neglect of most potential information. Or to put it more positively, survival is well served by a selective reduction of information, that is, a reduction to behaviorally significant cues to which the organism can respond in an adaptive fashion.

The selection of information is controlled, first of all, by the build of the organism -- specifically, the build of the sensory organs. Potential information (i.e., any physical process) that fails to stimulate these organs is obviously immaterial to the behavior of the organism. However, the "physical" reception of information by no means guarantees that the information is of any behavioral consequence. The organism focuses its perceptual efforts in unique ways, and it tends to utilize its limited capacity for processing received information in particular ways also. Focusing attention implies, of course, that not all available information can be given equal attention and that some information might not receive any attention. Focusing, then, implies selection. And as not all perceived information can be processed (i.e., behaviorally utilized or stored for later retrieval and behavioral utilization), processing also entails selection. But whereas sensory selection is fixed with the build of the organism, perceptual focus and selective processing are behavioral processes that are characterized by considerable plasticity. Although many of these selective processes are automatic and mechanical, many others are under volitional control and deliberate.

The various processes under consideration are perhaps best illustrated by considering early humans. Cave dwellers, for instance, were probably often

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Selective Exposure to Communication
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Contributors ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Selective-Exposure Phenomena 1
  • 2 - Cognitive Dissonance in Selective Exposure 11
  • References 31
  • 3 - Measuring Exposure to Television 35
  • References 58
  • 4 - Informational Utility and Selective Exposure to Entertainment Media 63
  • References 88
  • 5 - Determinants of Television Viewing Preferences 93
  • References 110
  • 6 - Thought and Action as Determinants of Media Exposure 113
  • References 136
  • 7 - Fear of Victimization and the Appeal of Crime Drama 141
  • References 154
  • 8 - Affect, Mood, and Emotion as Determinants of Selective Exposure 157
  • References 187
  • 9 - Selective Exposure to Educational Television 191
  • References 200
  • 10 - Cable and Program Choice 203
  • References 223
  • 11 - "Play It Again, Sam": Repeated Exposure to Television Programs 225
  • Acknowledgment 241
  • Author Index 243
  • Subject Index 249
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