Disarming the hostile media: an intervention to reduce perceptions of media bias by reducing naïve realism

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University of Alabama Libraries

When viewers see coverage of an issue on which they are strongly partisan, they tend to perceive even unbiased news coverage as biased against their own position. This “hostile media effect” has important implications for how citizens gather and respond to information. Psychologists studying the hostile media effect have presumed that it is, in part, driven by “naïve realism”, or the layman’s belief that “I see things as they are.” This dissertation is the first study to empirically establish this link by demonstrating that high partisans show a reduction in their perception that objectively neutral news coverage is biased against their position (i.e., they are more accurate in their perception) when their naïve realism has been challenged using a previously validated intervention, which incorporates an experiential component along with information about unconscious processes affecting perception. Furthermore, results indicate that high partisans are less defensive and more even-handed in their perception following this intervention and not actively trying to appear more unbiased.

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