Abstract: Drawing on representative samples of the U.S. population with almost 12,000 respondents in total, we measure and experimentally vary people's beliefs about the informativeness of news articles. Inconsistent with the desire for more information being the dominant motive for people's news consumption, treated respondents who think that a newspaper is less likely to suppress information reduce their demand for news from this outlet. This finding suggests that people have other motives to read news that sometimes conflict with their desire for more information. We discuss the implications of our findings for the regulation of media markets.
Abstract: Standard consumption utility is linked in time to a consumption event, whereas the timing of prosocial utility flows is ambiguous. Prosocial utility may depend on the actual utility consequences for others – it is consequence-dated – or it may be related to the act of giving and is thus choice-dated. Even though most prosocial decisions involve intertemporal trade-offs, existing models of other-regarding preferences abstract from the time signature of utility flows, limiting their explanatory scope. Building on a canonical intertemporal choice framework, we characterize the behavioral implications of the time structure of prosocial utility. We conduct a high-stakes donation experiment that allows us to identify non-parametrically and calibrate structurally the different motives from their unique time profiles. We find that the universe of our choice data can only be explained by a combination of choice- and consequence-dated prosocial utility. Both motives are pervasive and negatively correlated at the individual level.
Abstract: Do people demand news that get the facts right? Using a large-scale online experiment with more than 8,000 U.S. respondents, we examine how the demand for a politics newsletter changes when it includes a fact-checking service. We first document an overall muted demand for fact-checking when the newsletter features stories from an ideologically aligned source, even though fact-checking increases the perceived accuracy of the newsletter. The average impact of fact-checking masks substantial heterogeneity by ideology: fact-checking significantly reduces demand among respondents with strong ideological views and increases demand among more ideologically moderate respondents. Furthermore, fact-checking increases demand among all respondents when the newsletter features stories from an ideologically non-aligned source. These findings can be rationalized with a simple model where consumers face a trade-off between accuracy and conflicting non-instrumental motives, such as a preference for belief confirmation. We discuss implications for the use of fact-checking as a policy tool.
Media Persuasion and Consumption | work in progress