The (NULL) effects of clickbait headlines on polarization, trust, and learning

Kevin Munger, Mario Luca, Jonathan Nagler, Joshua Tucker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


“Clickbait” headlines designed to entice people to click are frequently used by both legitimate and less-than-legitimate news sources. Contemporary clickbait headlines tend to use emotional partisan appeals, raising concerns about their impact on consumers of online news. This article reports the results of a pair of experiments with different sets of subject pools: one conducted using Facebook ads that explicitly target people with a high preference for clickbait, the other using a sample recruited from Amazon's Mechanical Turk. We estimate subjects' individual-level preference for clickbait, and randomly assign sets of subjects to read either clickbait or traditional headlines. Findings show that older people and non-Democrats have a higher “preference for clickbait,” but reading clickbait headlines does not drive affective polarization, information retention, or trust in media.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-73
Number of pages25
JournalPublic Opinion Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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