New Media and Politics: Some Insights from Social and Political Psychology

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Many fascinating questions have been raised about the “transformative” influence of the Internet on everyday social life. Some research suggests that the Internet has a positive and transformative influence on many lives, but other studies suggest that this influence is overstated and not always associated with such positive consequences. This article briefly discusses some of these claims, especially those grounded in research from social and political psychology. It focuses on the extent to which the Internet is providing (a) an important and increasingly influential forum for acquiring politically relevant information and (b) a new context for researchers to study traditional social-psychological processes that may be associated with the way citizens enhance their political knowledge online and bolster their political attitudes and partisan affiliations. More generally, the article suggests that there are potential theoretical and empirical payoffs associated with studying online information-seeking behavior in the political realm.

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American Behavioral Scientist