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The Effects of Scandalous Information on Recall of Policy-Related Information



Political observers often criticize the news media's focus on scandalous activities of candidates as distracting voters from the “real issues.” However, the extent to which such a fondness for scandal influences voters remains unclear. The present study examines whether exposure to scandalous information about a candidate interferes with memory for policy-related information. Two possibilities are considered. One possibility is that scandalous information attracts substantial attention and processing from individuals thereby interfering with previously stored campaign information. A second possibility argues that conceiving of memory as organized in associative networks suggests that scandalous information facilitates, rather than interferes with, recall of policy-related campaign information. Based on data from a longitudinal experiment, I conclude that exposure to scandalous information is less hazardous to voters than is often suggested by political observers.