Cognitive, emotional and excitative responses to satirical news

Ellen Droog, Christian Burgers, David Mann

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While satirical news has the potential to sway viewers’ political opinions, empirical evidence for these effects remains mixed. Although some studies have shown that satire consumption results in viewer attitudes being more in line with satirists’ positions, other studies did not. A possible explanation for these conflicting findings is the lack of clarity about the mediating processes that play a role in this relationship. Therefore, the aim of this study was to examine the degree to which both self-reported as well as physiological cognitive, emotional, and excitative responses influence viewers’ attitudes when watching satirical news. We conducted a lab experiment in which participants watched either three satirical or three regular news videos about the same topics. Results showed that satire affected viewers’ self-reported and physiological cognitive, emotional and excitative responses. Nevertheless, viewers’ attitudes were mainly impacted through an affective rather than a cognitive or excitative route. More specifically, only positive emotions mediated the relationship between satirical (vs. regular) news on message-congruent attitudes, but in two opposite directions, which suppressed an overall direct effect on viewers’ attitudes. This indicates the need to differentiate between emotions with the same valence when studying effects of satirical news.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)913-937
Number of pages25
JournalMass Communication and Society
Issue number6
Early online date28 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023


This work is part of the research program Contemporary Political Satire: Medium, Language, and Impact of Satiric News with project number 276-45-005, which is financed by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). We thank the Network Institute (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) for their help and assistance with technological side of the experiment.

FundersFunder number
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek


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