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Interpersonal Discussion and Political Knowledge: Unpacking the Black Box via a Combined Experimental and Content-Analytic Approach


Over 130 studies have examined the relationship between interpersonal political discussion and political knowledge, generally finding that discussion can increase people’s level of political knowledge (Amsalem & Nir, 2019). However, two important questions remain unanswered: (a) Do some types of political discussions facilitate greater levels of political knowledge than others? (b) Do people retain knowledge gained from political discussions? In this study (N = 96), we addressed these questions using a novel methodological approach that combines a lab experiment, in which we manipulated the occurrence of political discussion, with a systematic content analysis of participants’ discussions (N = 1,080 distinct instances of discussions). We found that discussions involving confirmatory feedback and cueing were associated with greater levels of political knowledge than other types of discussions. Furthermore, knowledge gains from discussion were not retained after a short delay. Our study lays the theoretical and methodological groundwork for future investigations into the “black box” of political discussion.

Ryan C. Moore
Jason C. Coronel
Human Communication Research
Publication Date
February 9, 2022