Can newscasts reduce prejudice?: television's potential impact upon the malleability of implicit attitudes

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University of Alabama Libraries

Despite a preponderance of evidence that news reports increase negative racial attitudes, some researchers have demonstrated that the print media can reduce such effects. Research has yet to examine television news can similarly reduce negative racial attitudes among viewers, even though television suffers from a worse reputation for encouraging such biases than does print. Building upon psychological research into the malleability of prejudice, the present research explores television's potential to affect viewer prejudice. Psychological research (e.g., Dasgupta and Greenwald, 2001; Wittenbrink, Judd, and Park, 2001) shows that targeted manipulations can both positively and negatively affect implicit prejudices. Media research (e.g. Power, Murphy, and Coover, 1996; Casas & Dixon, 2003; Ramasubramanian, 2005) demonstrates that print media can produce positive and negative effects upon stereotypes and prejudice, though such research remains somewhat contradictory. Capitalizing on psychology's differentiation between implicit and explicit attitudes, this study is the first specifically to explore the potential for television news to prime counter-prejudicial attitudes. Specifically, the study uses an Implicit Association Test (IAT) to measure television news' facility to serve as a prime to strengthen or weaken racial schema and impact racial attitudes. After recording base-level prejudice through the IAT, researchers showed national news segments featuring famous and infamous Whites and Blacks to 130 White participants. Each segment was chosen either for visual impact or for the potential emotional impact of its subject. Pairs of segments served as either stereotypical or counterstereotypical manipulations. Following presentation of the segments, researchers measured post-manipulation implicit prejudice using the IAT and recorded levels of explicit prejudice as responses to semantic differentials and feeling thermometers. Data did not support initial hypotheses concerning the segments' effects upon explicit and implicit prejudice, but the experiment did yield interesting results that should help future media researchers. This dissertation provides a guide for future media research designs utilizing the IAT, suggests that television may possess a positive capacity to curb pro-White biases in society, and implies that television's propensity to increase anti-Black attitudes may be more limited than previous media research studies seem to suggest.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Mass Communications, Journalism, Cognitive psychology