BWL XI: Paper in Nature Human Behaviour
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BWL XI: Paper in Nature Human Behaviour

A new research paper examining the causal impact of negativity on news consumption has been accepted for publication in Nature Human Behaviour (IF: 24.25). The results of the study demonstrate a robust and causal negativity bias in news consumption from a massive dataset from the field.

Title: Negativity drives online news consumption

Co-authors: Claire E. Robertson (NYU), Kaoru Schwarzenegger (ETH Zurich), Phillip Parnamets (Karolinska Institutet), Jay J. Van Bavel (NYU), Stefan Feuerriegel (LMU Munich)


Abstract: Online media is important for society in informing and shaping opinions, hence raising the question of what drives online news consumption. Here, we analyze the causal effect of negative and emotional words on news consumption using a large online dataset of viral news stories. Specifically, we conducted our analyses using a series of randomized controlled trials (N = 22,743). Our dataset comprises ∼105,000 different variations of news stories from that generated ∼5.7 million clicks across more than 370 million overall impressions. Although positive words were slightly more prevalent than negative words, we found that negative words in news headlines increased consumption rates (and positive words decreased consumption rates). For a headline of average length, each additional negative word increased the click-through rate by 2.3% Our results contribute to a better understanding of why users engage with online media.


Preprint available here