The Onset of Habituation Effects
Predicting Fluctuations in News Use During the COVID-19 Pandemic by Disease Occurrence
Keywords:media use, information avoidance, issue fatigue, need for orientation
While extraordinary events like pandemics may prompt an increase in information-seeking behaviour, such trends are unlikely to be sustainable. Over time, issue fatigue/overdose is expected to set in. This study employed generalised additive mixed models (GAMMs) to determine whether attention to TV news corresponded with real-world developments. We sought to predict news use in Germany during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic based on disease occurrence next to two well-established predictors of news use (total TV use and day of the week). The association of key events with news use was also assessed. Initially, news use increased with disease occurrence. However, as the pandemic progressed, the linkage between the two variables weakened considerably, suggesting the onset of a habituation effect. Some support emerged for the idea that key events increased news use. Overall, our results are more in line with the explanation provided by agenda-setting theory and various information-seeking models than with the notion of coping through information avoidance. Thus, how the pandemic progresses appears to be a good predictor of news use at the aggregate level, although its predictive power decreases over time.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Viorela Dan, Hans-Bernd Brosius
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