Arne Freya Zillich / Sabrina Heike Kessler

Measuring Selective Exposure to Online Information. Combining Eye-tracking and Content Analysis of Users’ Actual Search Behavior

Internet users are increasingly able to select messages that are in line with their existing attitude and to avoid counter-attitudinal information. When measuring selective exposure to online information, scholars have mainly applied self-reports and behavioral measurements such as log file analysis or eye-tracking. However, the typical research design represents neither ordinary online search behavior nor ordinary online articles and has limited ecological validity. The present study attempts to address some of these methodological shortcomings: We first compare the advantages and disadvantages of established methods for measuring selective exposure to online information. We then present an experimental study in which participants could search the Internet for information on vaccinations for a virtually unlimited period and recorded their actual selection behavior via eye-tracking. The viewed content, recorded by the eye-tracker, was subsequently coded in a content analysis on four analytical levels.