Abstracts, citations, and links/DOIs of many of my papers are provided below. If you’d like a copy of these publications, or if you don’t see what you are looking for, please email me at the address at the bottom of this page.

Each section is organized by date of publication.

Peer-reviewed journal articles

Comparing belief in falsehoods by satiric and non-satiric news

Abstract: This article seeks to quantify the extent to which Americans hold beliefs that are consistent with interpreting satiric news literally, and to assess whether factors known to promote misperceptions work differently depending on whether the source of the misperception is satire. We also test the robustness of those factors across a diverse set of real-world falsehoods. The study uses secondary data analysis, relying on data drawn from a 12-wave six-month panel conducted in 2019. Analyses focus on participants’ beliefs about 120 falsehoods derived from high-profile political content in circulation before each survey wave, including 48 based on satiric news. A non-trivial number of participants believed claims originating in satire, but it is less than the proportion who believed falsehoods derived from other misleading content. Results also confirm the robustness of established predictors of misperceptions while demonstrating that the associations differ in magnitude between satiric and non-satiric news.

Poulsen, S. Bond, R. M., & Garrett, R. K. (2023). Comparing beliefs in falsehoods based on satiric and non-satiric news. PloS one, 18(1)

Predicting Vote Choice and Election Outcomes from Ballot Wording: The Role of Processing Fluency in Low Information Direct Democracy Elections

Abstract: Two laboratory studies (N = 240) were designed to explain and predict how people make decisions in low-information political environments. Guided by feelings-as-information theory, it was argued that when direct democracy ballot issues do not receive any campaign expenditures and are not about moral/civic issues, voters are likely to encounter these ballots for the first time in the voting booth. And when this is the case, how these ballots are written should affect vote choice. In support of study hypotheses, it was found that the difficulty of the words on the ballot affected people’s processing fluency, defined as the ease with which people processed the information presented. In turn, self-reports of processing fluency influenced vote choice. Specifically, easier texts were more likely to be supported and difficult texts were more likely to be opposed or abstained from voting on. As hypothesized, this relationship was mediated through self-reports of processing fluency. Additionally, to demonstrate the external validity of this process, it was found that the voting results obtained in the two laboratory studies replicated real-world election results 86% of the time. These results offer communicative and psychological insight into how communication affects information processing, and how these processing experiences inform political decisions of consequence to everyday life.

Shulman, H. C., Sweitzer, M. D., Bullock, O. M., Coronel, J. C., Bond, R. M., & Poulsen, S. (2022). Predicting Vote Choice and Election Outcomes from Ballot Wording: The Role of Processing Fluency in Low Information Direct Democracy Elections. Political Communication, 1-22.

Eye movements predict large-scale voting decisions

Abstract: More than 100 countries allow people to vote directly on policies in direct democracy elections (e.g., 2016 Brexit referendum). Politicians are often responsible for writing ballot language, and voters frequently encounter ballot measures that are difficult to understand. We examined whether eye movements from a small group of individuals can predict the consequences of ballot language on large-scale voting decisions. Across two preregistered studies (Study 1: N = 120 registered voters, Study 2: N = 120 registered voters), we monitored laboratory participants’ eye movements as they read real ballot measures. We found that eye-movement responses associated with difficulties in language comprehension predicted aggregate voting decisions to abstain from voting and vote against ballot measures in U.S. elections (total number of votes cast = 137,661,232). Eye movements predicted voting decisions beyond what was accounted for by widely used measures of language difficulty. This finding demonstrates a new way of linking eye movements to out-of-sample aggregate-level behaviors.

Coronel, J.C., Bullock, O.M, Shulman, H.C, Sweitzer, M.D, Bond, R.M, & Poulsen, S. (2021). Eye movements predict large-scale voting decisions. Psychological Science.

Investigating the generation and spread of numerical misinformation: A combined eye movement monitoring and social transmission approach

Abstract: Numerical facts play a prominent role in public discourse, but individuals often provide incorrect estimates of policy-relevant numerical quantities (e.g., the number of immigrants in the country). Across two studies, we examined the role of schemas in the creation of numerical misinformation and how it can spread via person-to-person communication. In our first study, we combined eye movement monitoring and behavioral methods to examine how schemas distort what people remember about policy-relevant numerical information. Then, in a second study, we examined the consequences of these memory distortions via the social transmission of numerical information using the serial reproduction paradigm. We found that individuals misremember numerical information in a manner consistent with their schemas and person-to-person transmission can exacerbate these memory errors. Our studies highlight the mechanisms supporting the generation and spread of numerical misinformation and demonstrate the utility of a multi-method approach in the study of misinformation.

Coronel, J. C., Poulsen, S., & Sweitzer, M. D. (2019). Investigating the generation and spread of numerical misinformation: A combined eye movement monitoring and social transmission approach. Human Communication Research, hqz012.

Flagging Facebook Falsehoods: Self-identified humor warnings outperform fact checker and peer warnings

Abstract: We present two studies evaluating the effectiveness of flagging inaccurate political posts on social media. In Study 1, we tested fact-checker flags, peer-generated flags, and a flag indicating that the publisher self-identified as a source of humor. We predicted that all would be effective, that their effectiveness would depend on prior beliefs, and that the self-identified humor flag would work best. Conducting a 2-wave online experiment (N=218), we found that self-identified humor flags were most effective, reducing beliefs and sharing intentions, especially among those predisposed to believe the post.We found no evidence that warnings from fact checkers or peers were beneficial. Compared to the alternatives, participants exposed to self-identified humor flags exhibited less reactance to and had more positive appraisals of the flagging system. The second study (N=610) replicated the findings of the first and provides a preliminary test of what makes this flag work.

Garrett, R. K., & Poulsen, S. (2019). Flagging Facebook falsehoods: Self-identified humor warnings outperform fact checker and peer warnings. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 24(5), 240–258.

Fact-checking effectiveness as a function of format and tone: Evaluating FactCheck. org and FlackCheck. org

Abstract: This experiment explores the role of information format (print vs. video) and tone (humorous–nonhumorous) in shaping message interest and belief correction in the context of political fact-checking (N = 525). To understand the mechanisms by which audience misperceptions may be reduced, this experiment tests the belief-correcting effectiveness of a humorous fact-checking video produced by, a long-form print article on the same topic, a nonhumorous video debunking the same set of claims, an unrelated humorous video, and a non-stimulus control group. Mediating psychological mechanisms (message interest, counterargumentation, message discounting) and message perceptions (message confusion) are explored. Results suggest video (humorous or nonhumorous) is an effective way to reduce audience misperceptions by increasing message attention and reducing confusion.

Young, D. G., Jamieson, K. H., Poulsen, S., & Goldring, A. (2018). Fact-Checking Effectiveness as a Function of Format and Tone: Evaluating and Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 95(1), 49–75.

Psychology, political ideology, and humor appreciation: Why is satire so liberal?

Abstract: This project explores how appreciation for, and comprehension of, ironic and exaggerated satire is related to political ideology. Drawing upon literature from communication, political psychology, and humor research, we explain how the psychological profiles of conservatives may render them less motivated to process and appreciate certain forms of humor compared to liberals. We test these propositions with an experiment that employs a two condition within-subjects experiment on a national sample (N = 305) to assess appreciation and comprehension of ironic and exaggerated humor among liberals and conservatives. Mediating effects of psychological traits are tested. Findings suggest that conservatives are less appreciative of both irony and exaggeration than liberals. In both cases, the effect is explained in part by lower sense of humor and need for cognition found among conservative participants. Results are explored in terms of the implications for political discourse, political polarization, and democratic practices.

Young, D. G., Bagozzi, B. E., Goldring, A., Poulsen, S., & Drouin, E. (2017). Psychology, political ideology, and humor appreciation: Why is satire so liberal?. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, Vol 8(2), Apr 2019, 134-147.

Manuscripts in review

Poulsen, S., & Garrett, R.K. (resubmission). Project on why people fall for satiric news. Online experiment.

Book Chapters

A History of Fact Checking in US Politics and Election Contexts

Introduction: The existence of an informed and engaged citizenry is fundamental to democratic theory. Although theorists disagree on the nature and necessary extent of citizens’ information and engagement, even conservative models assume that for democracy to work and for citizens to hold elected leaders accountable, citizens must be informed in some fashion. Delli Carpini and Keeter (1997, p. 61) note,“The more citizens are passingly informed about the issues of the day, the behavior of political leaders, and the rules under which they operate, the better off they are, the better off we are.” While political scientists have written for decades about the problem of uninformed citizens, over the past two decades scholars have become increasing concerned about misinformed citizens,“people who hold inaccurate factual beliefs, and do so confidently”(Kuklinski, Quirk, Jerit, Schwieder, & Rich, 2000, p. 792).

Regardless of how one conceptualizes the duty of citizens to get informed and correct their misperceptions, the mechanism through which citizens achieve these goals remains the same: a vibrant, resourced journalistic enterprise that delivers accurate information, highlights and corrects inaccuracies made by elites and public officials, and actively plays the role of arbiter of the truth. Although this is the role people expect news organizations to play, the extent to which these organizations have tried—or been able—to exercise this role has evolved over the years. The past three centuries have brought with them fundamental changes in the economics, routines, and norms of journalism as well as changes in campaign dynamics and media technologies. As a result, the very nature of the pursuit of political truths, and who is responsible for that pursuit, have gone through myriad iterations, among them the routinization of independent fact-checking organizations.

Public-facing media

Too many people think satirical news is real

In this piece, my colleagues and I discuss a project that finds people believe falsehoods that originate in satire. This piece has since transformed into a conference paper and is set to be submitted for publication after ICA 2022.

Garrett, R.K., Bond, R.B., and Poulsen, S. (2019 August 16). Too many people think satirical news is real. The Conversation. Retrieved from


Title: Stop Eating The Onion! How to best reduce satire-induced misperceptions.

This is in-progress.

Master’s thesis

An exploration of cognitive reflection, identity threats, and directional information processing

Abstract: Are effortful thinkers more likely to process identity-threatening information accurately than those who tend to rely on their intuition? Or are they more likely to be biased? Extant literature finds a contradiction in that both outcomes occur. In this thesis, I examine a potential boundary condition to begin to reconcile these contradictory results. I predict that when threats are implicit, requiring substantial cognitive effort to detect, the amount of effortful, deliberate analysis, or cognitive reflection, will be associated with biased processing. Alternatively, when threats are explicit, cognitive reflection will not be associated with biased processing, as participants of all levels of cognitive reflection will detect threat and process information in a biased manner. I investigate this claim through an online quasi-experiment with a demographically diverse sample (N= 496). In the experiment, I examine whether cognitive reflection’s impact on biased processing is contingent on the explicitness of identity-threat. I find no support for a direct relationship between cognitive reflection and biased processing in the study, in contrast to the extant literature. Nor is there evidence of the predicted boundary condition: the relationship between cognitive reflection and biased processing does not appear to depend on the explicitness of identity-threatening information. I conclude by considering methodological and theoretical explanations for these unexpected results.

Poulsen, S. (2018). An exploration of cognitive reflection, identity threats, and directional information processing (Masters thesis, The Ohio State University).