Media effects on implicit and explicit attitudes: an investigation of the linguistic intergroup bias

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University of Alabama Libraries

The present research investigated the impact of abstraction in language on racial attitudes, a process otherwise known as Linguistic Intergroup Bias (LIB). LIB is a term which describes how the specificity of language used can affect the subject. Specifically, when there are more adjectives and descriptive verbs used in a communication, a person is more likely to recall that information later and associate it with their beliefs (Maass, Salvi, Arcuri & Semin, 2000). Gorham (2006) found that when this type of language appears in print and television news, media viewers will replicate the increased abstraction in their own descriptions of the event. Therefore, if news anchors or copy writers are members of a certain in-group (e.g., Caucasians), they are likely to demonstrate LIB, thereby affecting the viewers - thus this effect has the potential of conveying this subtle bias to millions of people at once. We studied this via news stories in a 2 (LIB: High abstract language vs. Low abstract language) x 3 (Target Race: African American vs. Caucasian vs. not mentioned) between subjects factorial design. Results indicate that high levels of abstraction resulted in a replication of the LIB in target descriptions, along with increased negative explicit attitudes towards African Americans and increased believability in story content. Implications and future directions of this research are discussed.

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Psychology, Social psychology