If a story on social problems includes information about potential solutions, the readers will be more interested to read more on the subject, Karen McIntyre, of Virginia Commonwealth University, writes. McIntyre had 242 American adults take part in an online experiment, where they were exposed to news stories about sex trafficking.
Some participants read the original story, while others viewed a piece with added shocking details, or added information on a project designed to help the victims. Different versions were also created for events allegedly taking place close by (in the US) or far away (in Cambodia). The participants then completed a survey, which measured their attitudes towards the problem, and overall mood.
The solution-based approach proved in two ways superior to “shock” and control articles: they left their readers feeling better (yet still bad), and more willing to read additional stories on the issue. No article type, however, seemed to significantly affect the participants’ willingness to act on the issue, by for example sharing the news on social media or donating money.
The article “Motivating news audiences: Shock them or provide them with solutions?” was published by the journal Communication & Society. It is freely available online (open access).
Picture: Reading by Kamil Porembiński, licence CC BY-SA 2.0.