Research reveals extent of attention social media users give negative comments

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According to a new psychology report published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior and authored by Susann Kohout, Sanne Kruikemeier, and Bert N. Bakker, people pay more attention to negative comments on social media than positive ones. The study went on to investigate how much people pay attention to negative, positive, angry, and fearful content.

Susann Kohout and her colleagues came to this conclusion after designing an eye-tracking study to investigate the extent to which people pay attention to and remember emotional content on social media.

The study used an eye tracker to show 169 Dutch students three social media news posts, each accompanied by four comments that varied in the degree to which they were emotional, non-emotional, positive, negative, angry, or fearful. After that, the students were divided into two groups: heuristic processing and systematic processing.

The heuristic processing group was given only 30 seconds to read the posts. Participants in the systematic processing group were permitted to read the posts carefully and without restriction. The students then demonstrated longer dwell times for negative comments compared to positive comments, but only in the heuristic processing condition. This implies that when students were forced to read the comments quickly, they read the negative comments more frequently than the positive ones.

Meanwhile, students in the systematic condition demonstrated longer dwell times and higher recognition for angry comments versus fearful comments. This implies that when students were given enough time to read the comments, they were more likely to read and remember the story details of the angry comments rather than the fearful ones.

The sources for this piece include an article in Psypost.

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