Two experiments explored differences in television viewers' responses to viewer-controlled and producer-controlled content changes. Viewers in both studies could change channels among 4 different newscasts. Orienting, sympathetic activation, cognitive effort, and recognition were compared in the moments following both channel changes (viewer control) and cuts (producer control). Neither channel changes nor cuts elicited orienting. Sympathetic activation was higher following channel changes, while cognitive effort was higher following cuts. In 1 experiment, recognition accuracy was higher after a cut than it was after a channel change. These results inform how the exertion of control over media content alters psychological processing.
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