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Depictions of Race and Violent Crime in TV News Broadcasts: The Impact of Exposure on Viewer's Social Judgments
Unformatted Document Text:  News Media & Social Judgments 3 Depictions of Race and Violent Crime in TV News Broadcasts: The Impact of Exposure on Viewer’s Social Judgments Current research on social stereotyping in the U.S. continues to reveal persistent and substantial racial prejudice among Whites, particularly regarding the characterization of Blacks as violent or aggressive (Gordon, Michels, & Nelson, 1996; Kluegel, 1990; St. John & Heald- Moore, 1995). These beliefs have been found to manifest themselves in a heightened fear of White victimization at the hands of racial minorities, more precisely young, Black males (St. John & Heald-Moore, 1995; St. John & Heald-Moore, 1996). It is often conjectured that the media both construct and perpetuate these perceptions by disproportionately depicting Blacks as criminal suspects and Whites as victims in television news (Dixon & Linz, 2000a; Dixon & Linz, 2000b; Entman, 1990; Entman, 1994; St. John & Heald-Moore, 1995). Although content analyses reveal evidence consistent with these suppositions, less well understood is the impact of these portrayals on viewers perceptions. The present study takes a social cognitive approach in investigating this relationship by experimentally examining the potential impact of news portrayals of race and violent crime on viewers’ social judgments. Social Cognitive Theory Bandura’s (1986, 2002) social cognitive theory suggests that much of our cognitive, attitudinal, and behavioral knowledge is acquired through observation. This can occur either directly by attending to the events in our immediate social environment or vicariously through observations of models in the media. Bandura contends that because of the central position of the media in society, observational learning plays a significant role in influencing the thoughts and behaviors of audience members. He identifies four sub-functions that govern this symbolic modeling: attention, retention, production, and motivation. Further, he indicates that both the

Authors: Mastro, Dana., Lapinski, Maria. and Larrumbide, Andrea.
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News Media & Social Judgments 3
Depictions of Race and Violent Crime in TV News Broadcasts: The Impact of Exposure on
Viewer’s Social Judgments
Current research on social stereotyping in the U.S. continues to reveal persistent and
substantial racial prejudice among Whites, particularly regarding the characterization of Blacks
as violent or aggressive (Gordon, Michels, & Nelson, 1996; Kluegel, 1990; St. John & Heald-
Moore, 1995). These beliefs have been found to manifest themselves in a heightened fear of
White victimization at the hands of racial minorities, more precisely young, Black males (St.
John & Heald-Moore, 1995; St. John & Heald-Moore, 1996). It is often conjectured that the
media both construct and perpetuate these perceptions by disproportionately depicting Blacks as
criminal suspects and Whites as victims in television news (Dixon & Linz, 2000a; Dixon & Linz,
2000b; Entman, 1990; Entman, 1994; St. John & Heald-Moore, 1995). Although content
analyses reveal evidence consistent with these suppositions, less well understood is the impact of
these portrayals on viewers perceptions. The present study takes a social cognitive approach in
investigating this relationship by experimentally examining the potential impact of news
portrayals of race and violent crime on viewers’ social judgments.
Social Cognitive Theory
Bandura’s (1986, 2002) social cognitive theory suggests that much of our cognitive,
attitudinal, and behavioral knowledge is acquired through observation. This can occur either
directly by attending to the events in our immediate social environment or vicariously through
observations of models in the media. Bandura contends that because of the central position of the
media in society, observational learning plays a significant role in influencing the thoughts and
behaviors of audience members. He identifies four sub-functions that govern this symbolic
modeling: attention, retention, production, and motivation. Further, he indicates that both the


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