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TV news may lead to racial bias: study

Press Trust of India  |  Houston 

Regularly watching television or reading crime articles in newspapers may lead to racial bias towards social groups, according to new research.

Researchers studied the influence of coverage on an individuals' unconscious attitudes towards social groups.

Three empirical studies were tested in the US and Austria. Florian Arendt at the University of Munich in Germany conducted the research in Austria, while Temple Northup from the University of Houston (UH) focused on subjects in the US.

A total of 316 individuals participated in the first study in the US. Participants completed the Implicit Association Test (IAT), a tool used in psychology to measure hidden bias people may have but are unwilling or unable to report.

After completing the IAT, participants answered a question about their explicit (conscious) attitudes towards African-Americans, as well as how many hours of local television they watch per day.

"Based on the findings from the study in the US, long-term exposure to local television news, wherein African-Americans are depicted frequently and stereotypically as criminals, predicted increased negative implicit attitudes towards African-Americans," said Northup.

"Viewers who watched more local television news demonstrated more unconscious negative attitudes towards African-Americans," said Northup.

The study conducted in Austria was intended to be a replication of the US study. A total of 489 individuals participated in the study.

The study found that exposure to the tabloid-style daily newspaper did not increase the negativity of implicit attitudes.

"Unlike with television news, though, people have much more control over a printed newspaper because they are able to selectively expose themselves only to stories of interest," Northup said.

The third study investigated how much newspaper content participants are exposed to and the kinds of articles (ie crime articles) they read.

A total of 470 individuals participated in this study.

The findings from the third study found reading content specifically about crime had a significant effect on implicit attitudes towards foreigners when individuals indicated that they often read crime articles.

"The results of the studies suggest that in both these countries, regular exposure to stereotypical news coverage creates negative implicit attitudes," said Northup.

"The findings from the study in the US suggest individuals who consumed more local television news than others in the study may have increased negative racial bias towards African-Americans.

"In Austria, individuals who read more crime-related articles in a tabloid-style weekly newspaper tended to have an increased negative racial bias towards 'foreigners.'" Northup added.

The study was published in the International Journal of Communication.

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First Published: Fri, May 29 2015. 16:57 IST