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Subject: AEJ 97 HuangL CTM Impact of motivated processing goals on candidate information
From: Elliott Parker <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:AEJMC Conference Papers <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 8 Oct 1997 05:21:58 EDT
Content-Type:TEXT/PLAIN
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TEXT/PLAIN (1686 lines)


The Impact of Motivated Information Processing Goals and Political Expertise
on Candidate Information Search, Decision-Making Strategies, and Recall
 
 
 
 
 
 
by
 
Li-Ning Huang and Vincent Price
 
 
Department of Communication Studies
University of Michigan
2020 Frieze Building
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
(313) 764-0420
Fax: (313) 764-3288
E-mail: [log in to unmask]  and  [log in to unmask]
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Paper submitted to the Division of Communication Theory and Methodology for
presentation at the annual convention of the Association of Education in
Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), Chicago, 1997.
 
 
 
The Impact of Motivated Information Processing Goals and Political Expertise
on Candidate Information Search, Decision-Making Strategies, and Recall
 
 
 
 
 
Abstract
 
An experiment was conducted to investigate how impression-driven on-line
(systematic / evaluative) processing, impression-driven shallow (non-systematic
/ evaluative) processing, memorizing (systematic / non-evaluative) processing,
and careless (non-systematic / non-evaluative) processing and individual
difference in political expertise influenced the depth and the pattern of
information search, decision-making strategies, and the amount of recall. The
experimental results showed that while systematic information processing led to
a deeper and within-candidate information search, a preference for a
non-compensatory decision strategy, and a better recall, evaluative processing
resulted in a shallower and across-candidate information search and a preference
for a non-compensatory decision rule, but no beneficial effect on recall.
Implications of the findings for research in mass communication, social
cognition, and political science are also addressed.
 
 
 
The Impact of Motivated Information Processing Goals and Political Expertise
on Candidate Information Search, Decision-Making Strategies, and Recall
 
 
 
 
 
Abstract
 
 
Abstract
 
An experiment was conducted to investigate how impression-driven on-line
(systematic / evaluative) processing, impression-driven shallow (non-systematic
/ evaluative) processing, memorization (systematic / non-evaluative) processing,
and careless (non-systematic / non-evaluative) processing influenced people's
candidate information search depth and patterns, decision-making strategies, and
recall. The results showed that while systematic information processing led to a
deeper and within-candidate information search, a preference for a
non-compensatory decision strategy, and a better recall, evaluative processing
resulted in a shallower and across-candidate information search and a preference
for a non-compensatory decision rule.
 
 
Candidate Information Search
The Impact of Motivated Information Processing Goals and Political Expertise
on Candidate Information Search, Decision-Making Strategies, and Recall
 
 
        In this modern era, because of the advancement of communication technology,
the amount of information circulating has increased significantly. In recent
years, the emergence of the internet has served as an additional medium in
providing the public information. In particular, during election campaigns,
citizens are exposed to a considerable amount of information about major
party nominee. Although recent studies of voting behavior have increasingly
adopted a cognitive approach by examining how voters process the variety of
candidate information, how extensive and in what ways people acquire
candidate information has not received much research attention in political
communication.
        The process by which people select what information to attend to, to
remember, and to use in making a decision is quite individualistic and
subject to individual factors, such as motivations, interests, and needs.
The role of motives in mass media use has been thoroughly investigated by
communication researchers from a uses and gratifications perspective.
Several motives for media consumption have been identified by researchers in
this area, such as diversion, personal relationship, personal identity, and
surveillance (McQuail, Blumler, and Brown, 1972). However, researchers
(Blumler, 1979; Windahl, 1981) have decried the lack of
gratifications-by-effects studies and have suggested gratifications
researchers examine the associations between motives for media use and
subsequent effects.
        This study thus attempts to investigate how exposure motives influence the
process by which people acquire candidate information. More specifically,
this study develops a typology of four information processing goals along
the dimensions of systematic versus non-systematic processing and evaluative
processing (evaluative versus non-evaluative processing). With regard to the
information-acquisition process, of particular interests of this study are
the depth of information acquisition and the ways by which candidate
information is acquired. This study is particularly interested in examining
the extent to which people's information search tends to be within-candidate
by acquiring various information about one candidate before processing
information about another candidate or across-candidate by comparing several
candidates on certain attributes. Furthermore, Lau and Redlawsk (1992) claim
that previous political communication research fails to consider seriously
the decision rules or choice strategies by which people combine the
candidate information they have acquired in making their voting choice. As a
result, this study will also examine the decision-making strategies people
adopt to make their voting decisions, which could be inferred by their info
rmation-search pattern. In particular, two types of choice strategies,
compensatory and non-compensatory, are the main interests of this study.
        This paper starts with a review of the literature on information processing
goals, in particular, on-line versus memory-based processing. A typology of
information processing is then introduced. Next, a brief review of the
literature on political expertise is presented. Two types of choice
strategies, compensatory and non-compensatory, are then addressed. This
paper then suggests a number of hypotheses. To test these hypotheses, an
experiment was conducted. Lastly, the experimental results are presented. D
iscussions and implications of the findings are also addressed.
Literature Review
Motivation and Information-Processing Goals
        The impact of motivated information processing goals on social information
processing and person perception has been widely examined in social
psychology during the last decade (e.g., Hamilton, Katz, & Leirer, 1980a and
1980b; Neuberg & Fiske, 1987; Srull, 1981; Srull, Lichtenstein, & Rothbart,
1985; Wyer & Gordon, 1982). In these studies, subjects were given
instructions to anticipate an interaction with a target, form an impression
of the target, memorize the information pertaining to the target, or compare
the target information with the self.
        Hamilton, Katz, and Leirer (1980a and 1980b) conducted one of the earliest
investigations of person memory. They presented subjects with behavior
statements related to four separate conceptual categories (interpersonal,
intellectual, sports, and religious activities). Some subjects were given a
"memory set" in which they were told to remember as much of the information
as possible. Others were given a general "impression set" in which they were
told to form a general impression of what the actor would be like. After
receiving the information, all subjects were given a free-recall task. They
found that although they were given a surprise recall test, impression set
subjects recalled much more of the information than memory set subjects.
Since then, a number of studies have yielded empirical evidence to support
this phenomenon (e.g., Sedikides, Devine, & Fuhrman, 1991; Srull, 1981; Wyer
& Gordon, 1982). As a consequence, including a memory-set-impression-set
manipulation has become almost standard practice in subsequent person memory
experiments.
        Given that impression-set instructions typically lead to greater overall
levels of recall, the researchers have questioned why such effect occurs.
They explain this effect mostly based on associative network models of
person memory. According to such models (Hastie, 1980; Pryor & Ostrom, 1981;
Srull, 1981; Srull & Wyer, 1989; Wyer & Carlston, 1979), behaviors or
personality characteristics referring to a target person are represented in
memory as nodes. These nodes are often expected to be linked to a central
target node through a series of associative pathways (Sedikides, Devine, &
Fuhrman, 1991).
        Subjects who attempt to form a coherent impression of a target actively
attempt to integrate various pieces of information. That is, they do not
treat each new piece of information independently, but think about new
information in relation to what is already known about the target person. It
is suggested that when two or more pieces of information are considered
together in working memory, an associative path between them is established.
According to the associate-network theories, the associative paths that are
established during encoding ultimately provide additional retrieval routes
which would facilitate subsequent recall (Srull, 1981).
        The impression and memory sets which have been widely used in social
psychology research can be applied to examine political information
processing and evaluations of political figures, since they parallel the two
common motives for attending to political messages -- to form impressions of
political candidates and to learn information about candidates. Political
scientists have identified two types of political-information processing,
"on-line" processing and "memory-based processing" (Lodge, McGraw, & Stroh,
1989, p. 400 - 401), which are similar to the impression set and memory set.
Next section will discuss these two types of information processing.
On-Line Versus Memory-Based Processing
        The distinction between impression-driven on-line processing and
memory-based processing in political psychology was first proposed by Lodge,
McGraw, and Stroh (1989) in understanding the processes by which candidate
evaluations are made.
        According to Lodge, McGraw, and Stroh (1989), impression-driven on-line
processing occurs when judgments are made in response to spontaneous
encounters with relevant information. They (1989) proposed that people keep
an "evaluation counter" or "judgment tally" (p. 401) of each candidate and
update that summary evaluation when new information is encountered. As a
result, when exposed to new information, people can simply retrieve the
evaluation counter from memory, update this summary tally, store the new v
alue in long-term memory, and forget the actual evidence that contributed to
the evaluation.
        On the other hand, when judgments are memory-based, individuals have to
retrieve relatively concrete evidence from long-term memory and then compute
a summary evaluation in order to render a judgment. The information flows
from long-term memory into working memory rather than directly from the
external environment. Since individuals have to retrieve concrete evidence
from long-term memory, Hastie and Park (1986) pointed out that memory-based
judgments are usually more effortful than on-line judgments.
Systematic versus Non-Systematic and Evaluative versus Non-Evaluative
Processing
        A number of researchers have proposed models in delineating the impact of
information processing on attitude change. Most of the models such as
Chaiken's heuristic-systematic model (in Chaiken, Liberman, & Eagly, 1989)
and Petty and Cacioppo's (1986) Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM)
differentiate systematic processing (or central route) from heuristic
processing (or peripheral route) in understanding the basic processes
underlying persuasion. The central route of processing or systematic
processing is characterized by extensive issue-relevant thinking, careful
scrutiny of message arguments, and consideration of other issue-relevant
materials. On the other hand, heuristic processing or the peripheral route
processing implies that people determine the acceptance of recommended
arguments by relying on simple heuristic cues such as "experts can be
trusted," "majority opinion is correct," and "long messages are valid
messages."
        Based on those researchers' conceptualization, both impression-driven
on-line information processing and memory-based information processing could
be considered as types of systematic processing, because the tasks require
subjects to process messages thoroughly to form an impression or to memorize
information. The difference between these two is that, in on-line
processing, subjects process information with an evaluative goal, whereas,
in memory-based processing, subjects do not process information with an
evaluative goal.
        However, social psychologists and political scientists have overlooked
other less careful information processing conditions. During election
campaigns, not every eligible voter is interested in politics. Some
individuals may not want to pay attention to candidate information to
evaluate candidates or to learn their issue positions, even when the
information is available to them.  How individuals process information when
they are not attentive to candidates information is not well-known.
        This study thus attempts to explore how individuals search candidate
information differentially under conditions in which systematic versus
non-systematic processing and evaluative versus non-evaluative goals are
manipulated. Social psychology research has yielded numerous findings on the
distinctions between systematic and non-systematic processing and between
impression formation goal and memorizing goal, but inter-relating these two
distinctions has not yet been done. Combining these two distinctions in
terms of two co-ordinates helps map out the main kinds of candidate
information processing during election campaigns. More importantly, on-line
processing conflates both systematic and evaluative processing. It is thus
unclear that the effects attributed to on-line processing in previous
research resulted from systematic processing or evaluative processing.
        Figure 1 presents the four information processing goals along systematic
versus non-systematic and evaluative versus non-evaluative processing. As
can be seen, systematic information processing with an evaluative goal is
Lodge, McGraw and Stroh's (1989) impression-driven on-line processing by
which individuals are presented candidate information and attempt to
evaluate candidates simultaneously when they examine the information.
Systematic information processing without an evaluative goal is understood
as typical memory-based processing by which individuals carefully examine
candidate information in order to memorize it, but do not attempt to
evaluate candidates. Non-systematic information processing with an
evaluative goal is called "impression-driven shallow information processing"
by which individuals evaluate candidates without carefully considering the
relevant information. Last, non-systematic information processing without an
evaluative goal is identified, in this study, as "careless information proce
ssing" by which individuals are not motivated to examine candidate
information carefully and do not attempt to evaluate candidates.
        Besides the information processing goals, individual-level variables such
as expertise and needs are considered important factors in influencing the
extent to which people engage in systematic information processing. The role
of political expertise in political information processing and voting
preferences has been widely discussed by political psychologists. This study
will take this individual difference into account and examine its impact on
information search and decision-making strategies.
Political Expertise and Information Processing
        Political psychologists have shown considerable interest and ingenuity in
studying the effects of prior knowledge (see Lau & Sears, 1986, for
example). In discussing the difference between experts and novices in
information processing, Lau and Erber (1985) suggest that experts and
novices differ from each other not only in the amount of knowledge they have
but also in the ways they "structure and organize it in memory" (p. 38).
Krosnick (1990a) suggests that experts tend to view a set of information in
terms of large organizing patterns, whereas novices tend to view each piece
of information in isolation from the rest. In addition, experts tend to
represent information at a deeper, more principled level in terms of broad
categories, whereas novices tend to represent information at a more
superficial level based on surface features. Moreover, experts spend a great
deal of time analyzing a problem qualitatively before deciding which
solution strategy to implement, whereas novices plunge quickly into a
problem by applying mechanical strategies with little forethought about
their potential for success. Experts also have more domain-relevant
knowledge and they learn new information more quickly and easily than do
novices.
        Expertise also affects how people recall (i.e., store and retrieve)
information. Much research in political cognition (Fiske, 1986; Fiske,
Kinder, & Larter, 1983; Lau, 1986) has shown that whereas the general public
remembers schema-relevant information and tends to forget irrelevant
information, political experts remember both schema-inconsistent as well as
schema-consistent information. Fiske, Kinder, and Larter (1983) examined the
recall of political experts and novices who had read an article about the
political institutions in a country previously unknown to them and found
that the knowledgeable individuals used their greater encoding abilities to
recall more information than did the novices. Experts were also shown to
recall more information that was inconsistent with their prior expectations.
Measures of Information Acquisition
        Payne (1976), and Jacoby and his associates (1976) developed various
measures to describe information acquisition, including depth of search,
content of search, and sequence of search. Search depth refers to the amount
of information accessed from the available information environment. Some
common measures include the total number of items of information accessed
and the time taken to arrive at a decision. Content measures refer to just
what information is required.
        With regard to sequence measures, one frequently used procedure for
describing search relies on the "transition analysis" approach first
presented in Jacoby et al. (1976). These measures focus on the change in
alternatives and attributes from the acquisition of any one item of
information to the next. Since this study is interested in political
candidate information search, the types of transitions that are possible can
be defined as follows:
 
 
                Type                                            Description
 
 
1.      Same-candidate, Same-attribute          immediate reaccessing the same item of
information
 
2.      Across-candidate                                seeking the same information about different
   candidates
 
3.      Within-candidate                                seeking different information about the same candidate
 
4.      Different-attribute, Different-candidate        seeking different information
   about different candidates
 
 
 
        In Within-candidate processing, multiple attributes of a single candidate
are considered before information about a second candidate is processed. In
contrast, in across-candidate processing, the values of several candidates
on a single attribute are processed before information about a second
attribute is processed. Russo and Dosher (1983) and Hogarth (1987) suggest
that across-candidate processing, or examining each alternatives across
attributes is cognitively easier.
Choice Strategies: Compensatory and Non-compensatory
        Decision makers are assumed to be selective and hardly use all the
available information. Researchers in decision making propose that
information search is not random (Jacoby, et al., 1987). On the contrary,
they suggest that people select information in a few systematic ways.
Hogarth (1987) classified different strategies or decision rules into two
groups: (1) strategies that confront the conflicts inherent in the choice
situation; and (2) strategies that avoid the conflicts. Conflict-confronting
strategies are compensatory. In the compensatory model, a negative
evaluation or low value on one criterion can be balanced, offset, or
compensated by a positive evaluation or high value on another. In using this
decision-making strategy, individuals process a great deal of information in
assessing an alternative's overall value.
        In contrast, non-compensatory strategies are conflict-avoidance strategies
which do not allow tradeoffs (Hogarth, 1987). With non-compensatory
strategies, a positive evaluation on one attribute cannot compensate for a
negative evaluation on another. Thus, trade-offs may not be made explicitly
when individuals place greater emphasis on some particular salient
attributes rather than an alternative's overall worth.
        A related aspect of choice strategies is the degree to which the amount of
processing is consistent or selective across alternatives. That is, is the
same amount of information examined for each alternative, or does the amount
vary? In general, it has been assumed that more consistent processing across
alternatives indicates a more compensatory decision strategy (Hogarth, 1987;
Payne, 1976). Consistent processing involves examining the same amount of
attributes for each alternative. A more variable (selective) processing
pattern, on the other hand, indicates a non-compensatory decision strategy
by which the amount of information used to assess different alternatives
varies.
Hypotheses
        Drawing on previous research in social cognition and political psychology,
hypotheses about effects of information processing goals and political
expertise and their interactive influence on information search depth and
patterns, decision-making strategies, and recall are proposed.
Main effects of systematic information processing goals
        First, a number of persuasion models such as the ELM (Petty & Cacioppo,
1986) postulate that when subjects are motivated or are capable of engaging
in systematic information processing, they will carefully scrutinize the
arguments presented before they decide whether to accept the advocated
position. Following this assumption, it is then predicted that people with a
systematic processing goal will conduct a deeper information search by
accessing more information and spending more time on searching information
than with a non-systematic processing goal.
        H1:     People's information search will be deeper when processing information
        with a systematic goal rather than with a non-systematic goal.
 
        H1a:    People with a systematic information processing goal will acquire more
        individual items of information than will those with a non-systematic
        information processing goal.
 
        H1b:    People with a systematic information processing goal will spend more
        time on searching information than will those with a non-systematic
        information processing goal.
        Resulting from their deeper information search, people with a systematic
processing goal should therefore be able to exhibit a better recall. It is
assumed that such a relatively extensive information-encoding process should
lead to more associative paths linked among pieces of information. In
contrast, people who process information in a less systematic way do not
examine messages carefully and the messages remaining in their memory should
be relatively scattered. As a result, their amount of recall should be
reduced.
 
        H2:     People with a systematic information processing goal will recall more
        information than will those with a non-systematic information processing
        goal.
 
Main effects of evaluative goals
        When people are asked to form a global impression of candidates, the
information they access consecutively should be centered around the
candidates. That is, they will first access information about one candidate
to form an impression; then, they will access information about another
candidate. This way of information search is assumed to facilitate their
candidate evaluation task. Lau (1995a) also suggests that information search
in on-line processing is within-candidate to facilitate the updating of the
running tally, though he did not test this hypothesis in his studies.
        H3:     When processing information with an evaluative goal, people are more
        likely to conduct an within-candidate information search than will
people
        with a non-evaluative goal.
 
 
        Next, a specific task to form evaluations is assumed to help guide people's
information search. Therefore, when processing information without an
evaluative goal, people's information search should be in a relatively
random manner or variant, compared to those who process information with an
evaluative goal. Based on the previous research (e.g., Payne, 1976; Lau &
Redlawsk, 1992; Lau, 1995b), a variant search indicates a non-compensatory
decision strategy. It is therefore predicted that people's decision strategy
tends to be non-compensatory when processing information without an
evaluative goal.
 
        H4:     When processing information with a non-evaluative goal, people tend to
        adopt a non-compensatory decision strategy, compared to those who
process
        information with an evaluative goal.
 
        The results of previous research (Srull, 1983; Sedikides, Devine, &
Fuhrman, 1991) have shown that  impression set subjects recalled more of the
information than memory set subjects. Subjects with a goal to form an
impression retrieve more pieces of information because of the more richly
interconnected associative network that is established during encoding. For
memory set subjects, individual pieces of information are unlikely to be
thought of in relation to that target person and therefore fewer associative
paths could be formed. Consistent with previous research findings, a main
effect of evaluation goals is suggested:
        H5:     People with an evaluative goal will recall more information than will
        those with a non-evaluative goal.
 
Interactive effects of systematic and evaluative goals
        In memory-based processing, people are instructed to memorize as much of
the information as possible. With this instruction, it is speculated that
they should spend more time on each piece of information they have accessed
for trying to memorize it. In the impression-driven on-line processing
condition, since people' task is to form an impression, each piece of new
information they encounter is used to update their prior summary evaluation.
As a result, they can stop their information search whenever they think they
have formed a solid impression. In addition, it is likely that when they
access some piece of information that is consistent with their prior
impression, their processing on this information will be shallower, or spend
less time on that piece of information. Based on this reasoning, it is
predicted that subjects in memory-based processing will engage in a deeper
information search than will those in impression-driven on-line processing.
        H6:     People's information search in memory-based processing (systematic
        without evaluation processing) will be deeper than in impression-driven
        on-line processing (systematic with evaluation processing).
 
        H6a:    People in memory-based processing will acquire more individual items
        of information than will those in impression-driven on-line processing.
 
        H6b:    People in memory-based processing will spend more time on searching
        information than will those in impression-driven on-line processing.
 
Main effects of political expertise
        While some researchers suggest that political experts have greater encoding
abilities, whether they will process more information than novices is not
clear. On the one hand, prior knowledge can facilitate information encoding.
On the other hand, it can help in deciding which information is relevant.
Johnson and Russo (1984), for example, showed that consumers who were more
familiar with automobiles actually remembered less information about a set
of new cars than did those who were moderately familiar with cars. This,
they hypothesized, was because the more familiar consumer immediately
identified much of the information as irrelevant, knowing which attributes
were more predictive of product performance. If so, then, we should find
that political experts will search for less information than those less
knowledgeable, letting previous knowledge replace extensive search. With the
same logic, Lau and Redlawsk (1992) also hypothesized that political
experts' information search is less deep, but no significant effect was
found.
        H7:     Political experts' information search will be shallower than political
        novices'.
        H7a:    Political expert will acquire fewer individual items of information
        than will political novices.
        H7b:    Political experts will spend less time on searching information than
        will political novices.
 
 
        The effect of political expertise on information search pattern,
within-candidate or across-candidate, is unclear, either. Lau & Redlawsk'
(1992) suggested that, in reality, there are relatively few candidates,
varying on many different attributes, so an across-candidate search across
the few candidates is easier than an within-candidate search across many
attributes. They reasoned that political experts would better realize that
an across-candidate search strategy is more efficacious and will display a re
latively greater preference for across-candidate over within-candidate
search sequences. Following their reasoning, we expect:
        H8:     Political experts will show a greater preference for an
        across-candidate search than will political novices.
 
 
        Regarding the effect of political expertise on the use of compensatory or
non-compensatory decision strategy, since political experts possess greater
cognitive abilities and since compensatory decision making is more
effortful, we thus predict that political experts will be more likely than
novices to use compensatory decision strategies. This hypothesis has been
tested in Lau and Redlawsk's (1992) study and was supported.
        H9:     Political experts will be more likely to use compensatory decision
        strategies than will political novices.
 
 
        A number of studies suggest that political experts, because of their
greater encoding abilities, are able to recall more information than novices
are (e.g., Fiske, et al., 1983). Therefore, we predict:
        H10:    Political experts will recall more information than will political
        novices.
Method
        To test the hypotheses, an experiment with a 2 (effort: systematic versus
non-systematic information processing goals) by 2 (evaluation: evaluative
versus non-evaluative information processing goals) by 2 (political
expertise: expert versus novice) between-subjects factorial design was
conducted in a computer laboratory. Subjects were randomly assigned to one
of the four goal conditions and their political expertise was
post-experimentally measured.
Sample
        One hundred and fifty-seven college students, eighteen years of age or
older, participated in this study. There were slightly more females than
males (55% females).
Information-Board Method and Computer Scenario
        This study used the information-board method which was first used in 1970s
by Payne (1976) and Jacoby and his associates (Jacoby, 1975; Bettman &
Jacoby, 1976; Jacoby, Chestnut, Weigle, & Fisher, 1976) in their research to
determine what information individuals acquire in making a choice. With this
method, an information board with a M x N matrix displaying the value of
each alternative (the columns of the matrix) on each attribute (the rows) is
presented to subjects.
        Taking advantage of modern computer technology, decision making researchers
have increasingly used computers to store the entire external information
environment and display information in that environment. Subjects are
required to use computer mice to indicate what piece of information they
want to access. In this way, computers can record the entire processes of
respondents' information search (e.g., Chestnut & Jacoby, 1980; Hoyer &
Jacoby, 1983; Jacoby, Mazursky, Troutman, & Kuss, 1984; Payne, Bettman, &
Johnson, 1993). This method reduces human labor and errors in tracing the
entire process of information search.
        For the present study, a computer scenario was created to simulate the flow
of information during primaries. Six candidates, three Democrats and three
Republicans named John Wilson, Mack Walker, and Brian Hiebert, were created
and designed to look realistic. Most of the candidates' issue positions were
consistent with their party affiliation. For candidates from the same party,
their positions were varied from conservative (liberal) on some issues to
moderately conservative (liberal) on some other issues. The personality
traits for each candidate were balanced between negative and positive
traits. The scenario displayed five types of information about the
candidates: (1) positions on 11 issues, including abortion, affirmative
action, crime, education, environment and energy, foreign policy and
defense, gun control, health care, immigration, social welfare, and taxes;
(2) background information such as family, education, prior jobs, military
service record, and religion; (3) personality; (4) campaign activities; and
(5) poll results.
        The candidate information was displayed in a M x N matrix format. Because
there was too much information to fit into a computer screen, a two-stage
format was used. Figure 2 presents the main menu with candidates' names in
columns and attributes on rows and Figure 3 illustrates the options
available to subjects after selecting one candidate's issue positions.
Subjects were free to click their computer mouse on any cell to acquire the
information contained in that cell. Each cell which subjects clicked served
as one item of information searched, such as "John's Personality," "Mack's
Background," and "Brian's position on abortion." Each item (cell) of
information could contain more than one piece of information. For example,
each candidate's background information contained his gender, age,
education, marital status, and working experiences and each candidate's
campaign activities entailed several activities. After reading that
information, subjects could move to the initial stage, the main menu (shown
in Figure 1), in which they could select to acquire any other item of
information.
        Subjects in all conditions were told that there was no time limit. Whenever
they were ready to vote (or quit the scenario), they could click on the
"Ready to Vote" (in the on-line and impression-driven shallow processing
conditions) or "Quit" (in the other two non-evaluative processing
conditions) button at the bottom of the computer screen.
        This computer program had four versions in order to induce subjects to
adopt one of the four information processing goals, but all versions
contained the same information about the six candidates and a questionnaire
measuring their recall, political expertise, and background variables such
as gender. Subjects' every act during their information search and their
responses to all questions were recorded by computers.
Measurement of Independent Variables
        Manipulation of information processing goals. The information-processing
goals were manipulated by informing subjects of the task they were required
to accomplish in this study. For impression-driven on-line processing,
subjects were asked to evaluate the political candidates who were competing
for their parties' nominations for the 13th Congressional district in the
city and make a subsequent voting decision. For memory-based processing,
they were told that this study required them to memorize as much of the
political information as possible and afterwards to take a recall test. In
the impression-driven shallow information processing condition, subjects
were asked to evaluate the political candidates who were competing to be
their parties' nominees to run for the Congress in a distant state and make a
 subsequent voting choice. They were emphasized that their voting choice was
not important. In the careless information processing condition, subjects
were instructed to evaluate the user-friendliness of this computer program.
        Political expertise. This study used a political knowledge scale to
indicate the level of political expertise. A set of 13 questions about
current local, national, and international affairs was utilized. Such a
measure has demonstrated to be both valid and reliable in a number of
previous studies (e.g., Fiske, Lau, & Smith, 1990; McGraw & Pinney, 1990;
Zaller, 1990). Responses to all questions were scored as a simple dichotomy
with 0 = incorrect and 1 = correct. A political knowledge scale (M = 7.01, SD
 = 3.44 N = 157) was constructed by summing the number of correct responses
(Cronbach's _ = .85, Guttman's lambda = .86). This scale ranged from 0 to 13
and the median was 7. A dichotomous measure of expertise was created by
splitting the scale at the midpoint. Subject with scores above the midpoint
were classified as experts, whereas those with scores lower than 7 were
identified as novices (expert M =  10.17; novice M = 4.33; t[155] = -20.10, p
 < .0001). After this classification, the final sample had 85 political
novices (54%) and 72 political experts (46%).
Measurement of Dependent Variables
        Depth of information search. Following Payne's (1976) and Jacoby et al.'s
(1976) measurement, this study selected two measures to indicate the depth
of information search: (a) total number of individual items of information
accessed, and (b) total time spent on searching information. The total
number of information items searched was indicated by the total number of
cells on the information menu subjects clicked their computer mice to obtain
information. To measure how long subjects accessed information, computers
began counting the time (in seconds) when the main information menu was
first time shown on the computer screen and stopped counting when subjects
clicked on the "Ready to Vote" (in the impression-driven on-line and shallow
processing conditions), or "Quit" (in the other non-evaluative processing
conditions) button. Thus, the total time spent on searching information was
total seconds subjects spent on accessing information.
        Search pattern (across-candidate or within-candidate). This study used the
procedures developed by Jacoby et al. (1976) to analyze each information
search act. Every transition from one item of information to the next was
recorded by the computer program. A transition from one attribute to another
attribute for the same candidate was coded as a within-candidate move. A
transition from one candidate to another candidate for the same attribute
was coded as an across-candidate move. A transition from one attribute for a
candidate to another attribute for another candidate was coded as a
different attribute / different candidate move or shift. For each subject,
the proportion of  and across-candidate search moves was calculated by
dividing the total number of moves for each type of search by the total
number of search moves.
        Next, to infer that a subject's search tended to be within-candidate or
across-candidate, an index using Payne's (1976) formula was computed. Let
the total number of within-candidate transitions be N(candidate) and the
number of across-candidate moves be N(attribute). Payne's index is then the
ratio [N(candidate) - N(attribute)] / [N(candidate) + N(attribute)]. This
index is equal to 1.00 if N(attribute) = 0, and equals -1.00 if N(candidate)
= 0. If there are equal numbers of both types of transitions, the index
equals 0.0. In this way, a positive index value indicates that the
within-candidate search dominates over the across-candidate search, and a
negative index value indicates a dominant across-candidate search.
        Search consistency / variability (compensatory versus non-compensatory
decision-making strategies). The measure of search consistency or
variability was first designed by Payne (1976) to represent the extent of
compensatory processing and has been used in studies of Billings and Marcus
(1983), Klayman, (1983), Lau and Redlawsk (1992; Lau, 1995a, 1995b), and
Schkade and Kleinmuntz (1994). Following Payne's (1976) measurement, the
total number of information items accessed for each of the three candidates
was first calculated. Then, the standard deviation of these three numbers
was computed for each subject. If the standard deviation was zero, that
means that the same amount of information was searched for all three
candidates. This constant research pattern would indicate a compensatory
decision-making strategy. If the standard deviation was greater than zero,
that means that the amount of information searched was variant across the
three candidates. In other words, it indicated that a subject searched more
information for one candidate, but searched less information for another
candidate. In this way, it was assumed that that subject adopted a
non-compensatory decision-making strategy.
        Recall. Free recall is an important dependent variable in most person
perception studies (e.g., Hastie & Park, 1986; Sedikides, Devine, & Fuhrman,
1991; Srull, 1983) and candidate appraisal studies (e.g., Lodge, McGraw, &
Stroh, 1989; McGraw, Lodge, & Stroh, 1990; Rahn, 1993). It is assumed that
what subjects recall reflects what was in their memory and was subsequently
used to make future judgments. In this study, subjects were given a free
recall task. They were told to type anything they could remember about the
candidates. Subjects were told that they could use as much time as they
needed and that they did not need to worry about spelling or grammar.
Subject's recall protocols were coded. Total pieces of information subjects
correctly recalled were computed for each subject.
Other measures
        Goal manipulation checks. In order to determine the extent to which the
four types of information-processing goal were successfully induced, 13
statements were used. After subjects quit the election scenario, they were
asked to read each statement carefully and indicate how much it applied to
them on a seven-point scale ranging from "did NOT apply to me" (1) to
"Definitely applied to me" (7). To guard against response set, some
questions were reverse-worded. These statements are presented in Appendix A.
Results
Goal Manipulation Checks
        A principal component factor analysis with oblique rotation on the 13 items
yielded three factors with eigenvalues greater than 1.00 which together
accounted for 74.2 percent of the item variance. Factor one combined the
items which were designed to check the extent to which subjects engaged in
systematic information processing. Factor two combined the items which were
designed to check the extent to which subjects processed the political
information with an evaluation purpose. Factor three which only accounted
for 8 percent of item variance included items of memorizing information. A
series of t-tests were performed on these three factors and on each of the
13 items to check if the intended information processing goals had been
successfully adopted. All t-test results indicated significant mean
differences between groups on the three factors and 13 items. Therefore, the
manipulations of different information processing goals were considered
successful.[1]
Information Search Depth
        The depth of subjects' information search was indicated by 2 measures: (a)
total number of information items accessed, and (b) total time spent on
accessing information.
        Total items of information accessed.  A two (effort) by 2 (evaluation) by 2
(political expertise) analysis of variance (ANOVA) conducted on the total
number of information items accessed revealed several significant effects:
main effects for these three factors and two two-way interactions, one
between effort and evaluation and the other between evaluation and
expertise. No significant three-way interaction effect was observed. Table 1
presents the group means.
        The results showed that people in the systematic information processing
conditions (on-line and memory-based processing), on average, accessed 27
more items of information (M = 38.64) than did those in the non-systematic
information processing conditions (impression-driven shallow and careless
processing) (M = 11.09) (F(1, 149) = 185.92, p < .0001). Hypothesis 1a which
predicted that people with a systematic information processing goal would
examine more individual items of information than would those with a
non-systematic information processing goal was thus supported.
        Regarding the main effect of evaluative processing, it was observed that
people without an evaluative goal (careless and memory-based processing)
accessed more items of information (M = 28.82) than did those with a goal to
evaluate the political candidates (M = 22.25) (F(1, 149) = 11.06, p = .001).
This finding was not predicted initially. There also existed a main effect
of expertise with political experts examining more items of information than
political novices (F(1, 149) = 4.80, p = .03). Experts accessed a mean total
of 29.71 items while novices provided a mean of 21.58. Thus, hypothesis 7a
which predicted that political experts would examine fewer individual items
of information than would political novices was rejected.
        A significant interaction effect between systematic and evaluative
processing (F(1,149) = 16.52, p < .0001) illustrated in Figure 4 indicated
that, when people were motivated to examine the candidate information
carefully, they accessed more items of information when they processed the
information without an evaluation purpose (M = 47 for memory-based
processing) than when they had an evaluative goal (M = 31.61 for on-line
processing). On the other hand, when people were motivated to examine the
information shallowly or carelessly, the amount of information they accessed
did not differ much by whether they processed the candidate information with
an evaluation purpose or not (M = 11.95 for impression-driven shallow
processing and M = 10.14 for careless processing). Therefore, hypothesis 6a
predicting that people in the memory-based processing condition would
examine more individual items of information than would those in the on-line
processing was supported.
        A significant interaction effect between evaluation and expertise was also
observed (F(1, 149) = 4.68, p = .032), which was not predicted originally.
An examination of the plotted cell means displayed in Figure 5 revealed that
the amounts of items accessed by political experts and novices did not
differ much (M = 23.78 for experts and M = 20.86 for novices) when they were
motivated to process the candidate information with an evaluative goal,
whereas when they did not receive the evaluation task, on average, political
experts examined 15 more items of information (M = 37.13) than did novices (M
 = 22.34).
        Total time spent on searching information. The ANOVA conducted on the total
seconds of time subjects spent on accessing information revealed several
significant effects: main effects for effort and evaluation, and one two-way
interaction between effort and evaluation. No three-way interaction effect
was found. Group means are presented in Table 2.
        The results showed that people in the systematic information processing
conditions (on-line and memory-based processing) spent more time on
accessing information (M = 787.02) than did those in the non-systematic
information processing conditions (impression-driven shallow and careless
processing) (M = 182.37) (F(1, 149) = 159.48, p < .0001). On average,
subjects processing the candidate information systematically spent 605 more
seconds than did those processing information shallowly or carelessly.
Hypothesis 1b which predicted that people with a systematic information
processing goal would spend more time on searching information than would
those with a non-systematic information processing goal was thus supported.
        The evaluative goal was found to exert an influence on the information
search depth. People without an evaluative goal (careless and memory-based
processing) were found to spend about 272 more seconds on accessing
information (M = 639.73) than those with a goal to evaluate the political
candidates (M = 367.96) (F(1, 149) = 30.75, p = .001). In addition, although
it was observed that political experts spent approximately 123 more seconds (
M = 560.86) than did novices (M = 437.96) on information seeking, this
difference did not reach significant level (F(1, 149) = .73, p = .40). Thus,
hypothesis 6b which predicted that political experts would spend less time
on searching information than would political novices was not confirmed.
        The presence of the significant interaction effect between effort and
evaluation (F(1, 149) = 27.44, p < .0001) indicated that the effect of
evaluative processing depends on the presence or absence of the systematic
processing goal. Figure 6 displays the plotted group means. As can be seen,
among people who processed the candidate information systematically, those
who did not receive the evaluation task (those in the memory-based
processing condition) spent more time on accessing information (M = 1077.65)
than did those who received the evaluation task (those in the on-line
processing condition) (M = 542.64), whereas the amount of time spent by
subjects who processed information non-systematically did not substantially
differ by the presence or absence of the evaluative goal (M = 175.83 and
189.64, respectively). Therefore, hypothesis 6b predicting that people in
the memory-based processing condition would spend more seconds on searching
information than would those in the on-line processing condition was
supported.
Information Search Pattern
        Group means of the within-candidate search index are reported in Table 3.
The ANOVA results revealed significant main effects for the two types of
processing goal, but no significant main effect for political expertise and
no significant interaction effect between variables were observed.[2]
        An unanticipated main effect of systematic processing was found. As seen in
Table 3, people with a systematic processing goal exhibited a greater
preference for a within-candidate information search (M = .40) than did
those with a non-systematic processing goal (M = .11) (F(1,148) = 8.84, p =
.003).
        Moreover, the data showed that people with a goal to evaluate the political
candidates were less likely to conduct a within-candidate search (M = .11)
than were those without such a goal (M = .43) (F(1, 148) = 10.62, p = .001).
Thus, hypothesis 3 which predicted that people who processed information
with an evaluative goal were more likely to conduct an within-candidate
information search than were those with a non-evaluation goal was rejected.
        No significant effect of political expertise was observed. As a result,
hypothesis 8 which predicted that political experts would show a greater
preference for an across-candidate search than would political novices was
not supported. However, the means are in the predicted direction with
political experts' mean (M = .20) lower than political novices' (M = .31),
which suggests that political experts' information search pattern appeared
to be more across-candidate.
Decision-making strategies (compensatory versus non-compensatory
decision-making strategies)
        The decision-making strategy subjects adopted to make their voting decision
was indicated by the extent of their information search consistency or
variability. It is assumed that a constant search pattern -- accessing the
same amount of information across the three candidates -- indicates a
compensatory decision-making strategy, whereas a variant search pattern
indicates a non-compensatory decision making strategy. Table 4 reports the
mean standard deviation of the total items of information accessed across
the three political candidates across goal conditions and political
expertise. An ANOVA revealed significant main effects for effort and
expertise and one significant interaction between effort and expertise
        The systematic processing goal and expertise were observed to have had an
impact on the extent of information search consistency. As can be seen in
Table 4, subjects who were motivated to process the candidate information
systematically tended to conduct a more variant information search, which
suggested a non-compensatory decision-making strategy (M = 2.47), compared
with those who were motivated to process the information shallowly or
carelessly (M = 1.45) (F(1,149) = 14.08, p < .0001). This finding was not
predicted originally. Moreover, opposite to our expectation, political
experts' information search appeared more variant than novices' (M = 2.49
and 1.54, respectively) (F(1, 149) = 10.41, p = .002), suggesting political
experts' greater tendency of adopting a non-compensatory decision rule.
Hypothesis 9 which predicted that political experts would be more likely to
use a compensatory decision strategy than would political novices was thus re
jected.
        No significant effect of the evaluative goal on subjects' information
search consistency was found. Hypothesis 4 which predicted that, when
processing information without an evaluative goal, people tended to adopt a
non-compensatory decision strategy, compared with those who processed
information with an evaluative goal, could not be supported. However, an
examination of the group means presented in Table 4 showed that the means
are in the predicted direction with a higher mean in the non-evaluative goal
conditions, suggesting that people's information search pattern was more
consistent (M = 1.93) when they processed the information with an evaluative
goal than when they did so without an evaluative goal (M = 2.04).
        More importantly, the ANOVA results revealed an interaction between effort
and expertise which was not predicted initially (F(1, 149) = 4.77, p = .03).
Figure 7 presents the plotted group means. As the figure illustrates, when
subjects were motivated to process the candidate information shallowly or
carelessly, political experts and novices did not differ much on the extent
of their information search consistency or variability (M = 1.60 and 1.36,
respectively). However, when they were motivated to process the candidate
information carefully, political experts were more likely than novices to
conduct a variant information search, suggesting a non-compensatory
decision-making strategy (M = 3.08 and 1.78, respectively). In other words,
while processing information carefully, political experts tended to access
different amounts of information across the three political candidates,
whereas political novices tended to search approximately equal amounts of
information across the candidates.
Recall
        Group means of total pieces of information correctly recalled are given in
Table 5. An analysis of variance yielded two significant main effects for
the two types of information processing goal and one significant interaction
effect between them.
        An advantageous effect of the systematic information processing goal on
recall was observed. Subjects who were motivated to process the candidate
information carefully, on average, recalled 17 more pieces of information
than did those who were motivated to process the information shallowly or
carelessly (M = 23.42 and 6.28, respectively) (F(1, 149) = 88.76, p <
.0001). Therefore, hypothesis 2 which predicted that people with a
systematic information processing goal would recall more information than
would those with a non-systematic information processing goal was supported.
        The effect pattern of the evaluative goal observed was contrary to our
expectation. Subjects without an evaluation goal while processing the
candidate information recalled more pieces of information than did those
with an evaluative goal (M = 19.49 and 11.32, respectively) (F(1, 149) =
17.98, p < .0001). Hypothesis 5 predicting that people with an evaluative
goal would recall more information than would those without an evaluative
goal could not be supported.
        The interaction effect reflected in Figure 8 provides a clearer picture to
explain why people without the evaluation task could recall more pieces of
information than could those with the evaluation task. As Figure 8 shows,
after processing the candidate information shallowly or carelessly, people
with an evaluative goal (in the impression-driven shallow processing
condition) (M = 7.23) could recall two more pieces of information than could
those without an evaluative goal (in the careless processing condition) (M =
5.22), although the difference was not large. On the other hand, in the two
systematic processing conditions, people without the evaluation task (in the
memory-based processing group) (M = 33.38) recalled about 18 more pieces of
information than did those who received the evaluation task (in the on-line
processing condition) (M = 15.05). This effect pattern suggests that the
better recall observed in the non-evaluative groups (memory-based and
careless processing conditions) actually resulted from the memory-based
processing group.
        The findings did not provide evidence to support the predicted advantage of
political expertise on recall. While political experts have been shown in
past research to profess greater cognitive ability and recall more
information than novices, this finding was not replicated in the present
study. An examination of the means showed that the means are in the expected
direction with political experts recalling more pieces of information (M =
16.35) than novices (M = 14.08), but the differences were not statistically
significant (p > .95).
Discussion and Conclusion
        One of the most important conclusions to be drawn from this study is that
motivations play a more important role than cognitive ability in the process
by which people acquire candidate information. While a number of significant
effects of motivativated information processing goals were revealed by the
data of this present investigation, many of the predicted main effects of
political expertise were not supported.
        One striking finding is that political experts conducted a deeper
information search than did novices by accessing more items of information.
Political scientists (e.g., Krosnick, J., 1989) have noted that political
expertise represent not a single quality, but a constellation of several
attributes, such as interest in political affairs, exposure to political
information, and involvement in political activities. It is likely that
experts' deeper information search resulted from their interests in political
 affairs rather than their prior knowledge. If this is the case, then, one
important conclusion drawn from this study is that people who are active in
acquiring candidate information are those who are interested in politics.
Those who are not interested in politics do not turn out to be active
information seekers. This raises a problem with regard to the educational
function of mass media. During election campaigns, those who are not
interested in politics and do not have prior knowledge are those who need to
be educated. However, they are not active information seekers, even though
they need to be.
        While past research (e.g., Fiske, Kinder, & Larter, 1983) provided strong
evidence to support experts' abilities in retaining more information, both
schema-consistent and schema-inconsistent, in their memory, this effect
pattern was not replicated here. It was likely that the power of political
expertise was attenuated by the manipulated information processing goals.
Overall, the data provided strong evidence with regard to the power of
motivated information processing goals on subjects' information search and
recall. It could be speculated that the deficiencies of novices or/and the
advantages of experts in terms of their encoding capacities were balanced by
motivations. If this is the case, the results indicate that individuals'
motivations can transcend individual differences in cognitive abilities.
That is, no matter if individuals are experts or novices, as long as they
have the motivation to process media messages carefully, novices and experts
could perform equally well in storing and retrieving information. Future
research in political communication should not overlook the power of
motivations on information processing.
        With regard to the role of motivated exposure goals, this study offers
valuable extensions to previous research through conceptualizing different
kinds of information processing goals along the dimensions of systematic and
evaluative processing. The experimental results suggest that systematic
processing exerts its influences differentially from evaluative processing.
The data indicate that while systematic information processing goals led to
a deeper, more variant, and within-candidate information search, and a
better recall, evaluative processing goals resulted in a shallower, more
variant, and across-candidate information search, but no advantegeous effect
on recall, demonstrating the importance of distinguishing between systematic
information processing and evaluative information processing.
        On-line processing which was widely used in past person perception and
candidate evaluation studies actually conflates both systematic and
evaluative processing. As a result, it is unclear that the effects observed
and attributed to on-line processing in past research resulted from
systematic processing or evaluative processing. By differentiating
evaluative processing from systematic processing, this study presents a
clear picture about the differences between these two types of information
processing.
        Some social cognition researchers (Cohen, 1981; Wyer and Srull, 1980) have
attempted to address the mechanisms underlying the process by which goals
influence information processing. They have suggested that goals influence
information processing through activating mental schemas. Following their
reasoning, Reeves, Chaffee, Tims (1982) suggest to conceive motivations for
media exposure as different goal schemata. According to them, for example,
the need to gain information may be consist of a series of directions about
how to perceive important features of people, behaviors, or events as
opposed to an entertainment goal schema that might focus attention on
humorous people and situations or specific incidents instead of on the whole
story. They propose that the application of different goal schemata during
processing could affect what information is attended to, stored, and used.
        Another essential and surprising finding revealed by the data is that
evaluative processing did not generate a better recall. Further interaction
effects demonstrated that those in the memory set recalled more pieces
information than did those in the impression-set. This finding is contrary
to the one observed in past person memory research (e.g., Devine, Sedikides,
& Fuhrman, 1989; Hamilton, Katz, & Leirer, 1980; Sedikies, Devine, &
Fuhrman, 1991) which demonstrated that memory instructions produced lower
levels of recall than impression-formation instructions in both
single-target and multiple-target settings.
        This discrepancy may be explained based on the elaboration model of person
memory that has been proposed by Klein and Loftus (1990). Their model argues
that a number of the enhanced memory effects obtained in the person memory
literature are not necessarily due to the formation of associative links
between the items of information presented about a person. Rather, certain
types of tasks may lead people to elaborate extensively on each of the
stimulus items presented, thereby rendering these items more accessible in
memory. An analysis of the average time spent on each item of information
provides some support for this explanation. Subjects in the memory-based
processing condition spent an average of 23.73 seconds on each item of
information, whereas subjects in the on-line processing condition spent
17.02 seconds on each information item (t(1,77) = -5.32, p < .0001).
Implications for Future Research
        This present investigation provides exciting results and has several
important theoretical and methodological implications for research in mass
communication, social cognition, and political science.
        First, this study provides empirical evidence to support the uses and
gratifications approach's proposition that audiences are not passive
information receivers (McLeod and Becker, 1981). This study suggests that
audiences are selective in processing political information. However,
although a number of motives has been identified by uses and gratifications
researchers, their investigations narrowly focused on broad categories of
motives for selecting media sources, rather than exploring the role of more
specific motives. This study manipulated four specific information
processing goals and provided strong evidence that these motives exerted
differential impact on a number of dependent variables. As a result, future
research should certainly attempt to develop more specific motives and
explore their role in information acquisition, processing, and
interpretation.
        Secondly, this study used computers to record subjects' entire
information-seeking processes. Although this method created a relatively
artificial environment, it captures the real "dynamic" process of
information seeking and provides reliable data about subjects' information
selection and attention paid to the candidate information. Uses and
gratifications researchers have heavily relied on self-reports of exposure,
attention, and motives (e.g., McLeod and Becker, 1983; Becker, 1976), which
have been criticized as invalid measures of internal processes (Garramone,
1985). Future research in investigating the relationship between motives and
information processing may employ multiple methodologies to measure or
manipulate audience motives and to assess the relationships between exposure
motives and outcomes.
        The findings of this study has also important implications for knowledge
gap research (Tichenor, Donohue and Olien, 1970) by suggesting that
motivations could decrease the gap. This present research reveals that those
who were more active in acquiring the candidate information were political
experts, but the knowledge gap between these two groups was not observed.
The strong impact of information processing goals and the relatively weak
impact of political expertise on the amount of recall observed in this study
suggest that motivation is an important factor to narrow the knowledge gap.
Research incorporating motivated information processing goals could provide
a new perspective for examining how motivation and social economic status
contribute to the knowledge gap widening or narrowing.
        Another important implication of this present research is the need to
conceive the various specific information processing motives within a
broader theoretical framework. This study develops a typology of four
different information processing goals along two dimensions, systematic
versus non-systematic and evaluative versus non-evaluative processing, and
provids strong evidence that evaluative processing influenced information
acquisition strategies in ways different from systematic processing.
Although past person memory research in social psychology has systematically
investigated several specific information processing goals (i.e., forming
impressions, memorizing, comparing the target person to the self, looking
for verbs), those motivated encoding objectives seemed separate and
independent from one another in those studies. In fact, it is likely that
some of these goals operate via similar cognitive and psychological
mechanisms, but differ on some other dimensions. Future research on the
impact of information processing goals on social information processing and
social judgment-making should need to address these specific information
processing goals in a broader theoretical context to build robust theories.
        The present study suggests that political scientists while investigating
voting behavior need to take people's purpose of consuming candidate
information into account. The data of this study indicate that, even though
a lot of information about political candidates is available to audiences,
if they don't want to pay attention to it, no matter whether they are
experts or novices, they will gain nothing or little knowledge about
candidates, which may make them vote for someone they don't know well.
Traditional voting research usually asked subjects to read the stimulus
candidate information carefully to make a voting choice and ignored the fact
that people may not want to follow political news because of the lack of
interest or the lack of trust in government, or other reasons unknown to
this study. In this present research, four different goals were manipulated.
We are not sure which goal is the most common during real election
campaigns, but we think that careless and shallow processing should be
suitable to those who are not interested in politics.
        Last, this study found that, when people processed the candidate
information carefully, they tended to adopt a within-candidate information
search to compute the overall value of each candidate, whereas, when people
processed the candidate information shallowly, they tended to adopt an
across-candidate search by comparing the candidates on some attributes.
These findings have important implications for campaign message design. It
is possible to predict that, while using television and radio to acquire info
rmation about candidates, people are more likely to adopt an intra-attribute
search, whereas, while using newspapers, people are more likely to adopt an
intra-candidate search, because television viewing and radio listening
usually require less cognitive effort as opposed to newspaper reading. If
this is the case, in designing newspaper advertisements, candidates should
focus on their qualities. In designing television ads or radio ads, on the
other hand, candidates should compare themselves with other candidates, that
is, demonstrate their strengths and others' weaknesses. Future research in
this field may examine if different message designs evoke different
information processing and search patterns, which in turn influence
subsequent candidate evaluations.
        Overall, this present research have provided exciting results to
demonstrate how different information processing goals along the continuums
of systematic and evaluative processing and individual difference in
political expertise affect people's candidate information search depth,
search patterns, decision-making strategies, and recall. Based on the
experimental results, this study suggests potentially productive avenues for
researchers across the fields of mass communication, social cognition, and
political science in investigating information consumption. One of the most
interesting and provocative aspects of the present research is that it
challenges researchers to theorize various information processing goals with
some underlying cognitive and/or psychological mechanisms to provide
theoretical insights into the issue of how different information processing
goals exert their influences. This study also calls for researchers'
attention to examine the dynamic process of information seeking to advance
our understanding of mass media effects and processes.
 
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Evaluative
 
|
|
|
                Impression-Driven|                      Impression-Driven
        On-Line Information Processing|         Shallow Information Processing
|
|
|
|
Systematic
<-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
----------->
 Non-Systematic
|
|
|
|
        Memory-Based Information Processing|            Careless Information Processing
|
|
|
|
 
Non-Evaluative
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 1. Typology of Audience Information Processing
 
 
 
 
 
 
  [--- WPG  Graphic Goes Here  ---]
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 2 Main Information Search Menu
 
 
 
 
 
  [--- WPG  Graphic Goes Here  ---]
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 3 Information Search Menu for Issue Positions
 
 
Table 1
 
Total Number of Information Items Accessed by Goal Conditions and Political
Expertise
 
 
Condition                                       Experts                                                         Novices
 
 
                                                                                Goal Conditions
 
                        Evaluative              Non-Evaluative          Evaluative              Non-Evaluative
 
Systematic                      31.54                           54.63                                   31.60                   38.94
                                (24)                            (19)                                    (20)                    (18)
 
Non-systematic          12.00                           11.54                                   11.92                   9.35
                                (16)                            (13)                                    (24)                    (23)
 
 
 
Note. Total n = 157. Means represent the total number of information items
accessed for each group. Numbers in parentheses are cell ns.
 
 
 
Table 2
 
Total Seconds Spent on Searching Information by Goal Conditions and Political
Expertise
 
 
Condition                               Experts                                                         Novices
 
 
                                                                                Goal Conditions
 
                        Evaluative      Non-Evaluative          Evaluative              Non-Evaluative
 
Systematic                      555.79          1147.37                         526.85          1004.06
                                (24)                    (19)                                    (20)                    (18)
 
Non-systematic          171.19          192.62                          178.52          187.96
                                (16)                    (13)                                    (24)                    (23)
 
 
 
Note. Total n = 157. Means represent seconds of time spent on accessing
information for each group. Numbers in parentheses are cell ns.
 
 
 
 
 
 
  [--- WPG  Graphic Goes Here  ---]
 
 
 
 
Figure 4. Total Items of Information Accessed by Effort and Evaluation
 
 
 
 
 
  [--- WPG  Graphic Goes Here  ---]
 
 
 
 
Figure 5. Total Items of Information Accessed by Evaluation and Expertise
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  [--- WPG  Graphic Goes Here  ---]
 
 
 
 
Figure 6. Total Time Spent on Searching Information by Effort and Evaluation
 
 
 
 
Table 3
 
Within-Candidate Search Index by Goal Conditions and Political Expertise
 
 
Condition                                       Experts                                                         Novices
 
 
                                                                                Goal Conditions
 
                        Evaluative      Non-Evaluative          Evaluative              Non-Evaluative
 
Systematic                      .23                             .38                                             .30                                     .76
                                (24)                    (19)                                    (20)                            (18)
 
Non-systematic          -.14                    .28                                             -.01                            .30
                                (16)                    (13)                                    (24)                            (23)
 
 
 
Note. Total n = 156. Means are the  search index for each group. A positive
index value indicates that the  search dominates over the across-candidate
search, and a negative index value indicates a dominant across-candidate search.
Numbers in parentheses are cell ns.
 
 
 
 
Table 4
 
Standard Deviation of Total Items Accessed Across Three Candidates
by Goal Conditions and Political Expertise
 
 
Condition                                       Experts                                                         Novices
 
 
                                                                                Goal Conditions
 
                        Evaluative      Non-Evaluative          Evaluative              Non-Evaluative
 
Systematic                      2.80                    3.44                                    2.16                            1.35
                                (24)                    (19)                                    (20)                            (18)
 
Non-systematic          1.41                    1.83                                    1.19                            1.53
                                (16)                    (13)                                    (24)                            (23)
 
 
 
Note. Total n = 157. Means are the standard deviation of the total items of
information accessed across the three candidates in each condition. If the
standard deviation is greater than zero, that means that the amount of
information searched is variant across the candidates, which suggests a
non-compensatory decision-making strategy. Numbers in parentheses are cell ns.
 
 
 
 
 
 
  [--- WPG  Graphic Goes Here  ---]
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 7. Search Variability by Effort and Expertise
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table 5
 
Total Pieces of Information Correctly Recalled by Goal Conditions and Political
Expertise
 
 
Condition                                       Experts                                                         Novices
 
 
                                                                                Goal Conditions
 
                        Evaluative              Non-Evaluative          Evaluative              Non-Evaluative
 
Systematic                      15.50                           33.26                                   14.50                   33.50
                                (24)                            (19)                                    (20)                    (18)
 
Non-systematic          7.13                            4.54                                    7.29                    5.61
                                (16)                            (13)                                    (24)                    (23)
 
 
 
Note. Total n = 157. Means are total pieces of information subjects correctly
recalled for each group. Numbers in parentheses are cell ns.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  [--- WPG  Graphic Goes Here  ---]
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Figure 8. Total Pieces of Information Recalled by Effort and Evaluation
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Appendix A
 
Statements used for goal manipulation checks
 
 
 
1.      When I read the candidate information, I attempted to evaluate those
candidates.
2.      I paid LITTLE attention to the candidate information.
3.      I tried to memorize each candidate's issue positions.
4.      I attempted to compare these candidates.
5.      I attempted to form impressions of these candidates.
6.      I took LITTLE care in reading the candidate information.
7.      I tried to memorize each candidate's personality.
8.      I tried to quit the political scenario as quickly as I could.
9.      I tried to memorize each candidate's campaign activities.
10.     I attempted to reduce my time spent on reading the candidate information.
11.     I attempted to evaluate the user-friendliness of this computer program.
12.     I tried to access all the information provided.
13.     Before the political scenario began, I was informed that I was going
     to made a subsequent voting decision.
 
Note.  Statements 1, 4, 5, and 13 were designed to check the evaluative
dimension of their information processing and statements 2, 6, 8, 10, and 12
were designed to check the systematic dimension of their information processing.
Statements 3, 7, and 9 were used to check the memory-set manipulation and
statement 11 was used to check the instructions used for the careless
information processing condition.
 
 
 
 
Notes
 
 
[1]  Due to the space limit, detailed statistical results cannot be presented
here. Details could be requested from the authors.
[2]  Two additional measures were used to access people's information search
pattern: proportion of within-candidate search moves to all search moves and
proportion of across-candidate search moves to all search moves. The ANOVA
results on these two measures are similar to those on the index measure. Since
the index measure is a linear combination of these two measure and the ANOVA
results are similar, results on the index measure were presented here.

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