Comfortably Numb: Effects of Prolonged Media Coverage

Aaron M. Hoffman, José Kaire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Exposure to a single report about terrorism in the mass media can trigger a range of emotional and political reactions. The consequences of exposure to several terrorism reports in row, however, are a matter of controversy. We examine the effects of prolonged terrorism coverage using an experimental design that combines self-report measures of emotions and political attitudes with instantaneous biometric data on emotions. Consistent with research on nonassociational learning, we find that exposure to multiple videos habituates people to depictions of terrorism: the longer people watch terrorism coverage, the less intense their reactions are to the images of terrorism they see. Some images and videos, however, contribute to this result more than others. This suggests that the ultimate effects of terrorism coverage depend on the interplay between the quantity and quality of reporting, not the quantity alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1666-1692
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • emotion
  • experiment
  • media
  • political psychology
  • terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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