Polarizing Issues, Polarized Publics: Explicating Lacuna Publics' Issue-Specific Motivations, Perceptions, and Communicative Behaviors

Arunima Krishna, Purdue University


This study sought to identify situational and cross-situational factors that predict individuals’ issue-specific negative attitudes, and test a new sub-type of individual activism – lacuna individuals. Lacuna individuals are those who hold high levels of negative attitudes about an issue, have deficient issue-specific knowledge, and yet are highly motivated in their information behaviors about the issue. The evaluation and acceptance of scientifically non-legitimate data, referred to as knowledge deficiency, and negative attitudes about the respective issues, form the focal points of the conceptualization of lacuna individuals. In this study, the contexts of homonegativity in India and vaccine safety in the US have been investigated to identify lacuna individuals about them. Characteristics of individuals, their motivated information behaviors and attitudes toward the problems at hand were examined and compared to non-lacuna individuals. Using the Situational Theory of Problem Solving as a theoretical frame, this study advances a model to explain lacuna individuals’ motivated information behaviors. The results of this proposed study contribute to communication theory by furthering our understanding of individual activism about two social issues, especially how knowledge deficiency further exacerbates social problems.




Kim, Purdue University.

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