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An Experimental Evaluation of Readers' Perceptions of Media Bias
Unformatted Document Text:  Media Bias - 14 Discussion This has been the most extensive examination of the perceptions of bias in media consumers under controlled conditions performed to date, and as a consequence there are many findings which demand highlighting. We will proceed by considering the results in which they were presented above. First: A key finding from the semantic differential response section of the questionnaire is that the perception of bias is negatively and significantly associated with the perception of accuracy. This is exactly the mechanism posited above, and also by Roumer and associates and is a fundamental reason for media practitioners to be concerned about audiences perceiving biases in news reports regardless of whether the reports are actually biased or not. It seems reasonable to conclude that consumers are less attracted to news sources they regard as inaccurate, and we now know that the perception of inaccuracy and the perception of bias are related. Second: We must recall that although we deliberately balanced the articles used in this study to the extent possible, the demand characteristics of the experimental situation encouraged participants to view the articles, or at least parts of them, as biased. Half the participants were cued to the possible presence of bias before they even saw the articles, and all of the participants were asked to mark biased statements on a copy of the article. Research participants are volunteers to begin with, and some have a tendency to try and give the researchers the results they are looking for. We can see the consequences of demand in some of the statements readers considered biased: one student took issue with just the phrase "...a sophomore from Willington..." and nothing else in the article, and another attributed bias only to the final paragraph, "The next town hall meeting will be scheduled next month." Obviously, these readers were looking for something to mark as biased, probably with the idea of being cooperative. Despite these demand characteristics, almost 60% of the participants indicated that the article they had read was entirely free from bias. Unsolicited comments written in the questionnaire’s margins included statements such as "It’s just fine" and "Two quotes from each side...good." We have cause to be concerned about readers who perceive bias where none really exists, but we also need to be aware that these readers are a minority. Third: One in eight participants considered the article they read to be completely biased. This is unanticipated and not predicted or predictable by Social Judgment theory, since these readers are clearly not focusing on individual statements, whether pro, con or neutral. It seems possible that many of these people considered these articles to be biased because these people consider all news media and reports to be biased, and the sources and consequences of this perception need to be explored in future research.

Authors: D'Alessio, Dave.
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Media Bias - 14
Discussion
This has been the most extensive examination of the perceptions of bias in media consumers under controlled
conditions performed to date, and as a consequence there are many findings which demand highlighting. We will
proceed by considering the results in which they were presented above.
First: A key finding from the semantic differential response section of the questionnaire is that the perception
of bias is negatively and significantly associated with the perception of accuracy. This is exactly the mechanism posited
above, and also by Roumer and associates and is a fundamental reason for media practitioners to be concerned about
audiences perceiving biases in news reports regardless of whether the reports are actually biased or not. It seems
reasonable to conclude that consumers are less attracted to news sources they regard as inaccurate, and we now know
that the perception of inaccuracy and the perception of bias are related.
Second: We must recall that although we deliberately balanced the articles used in this study to the extent
possible, the demand characteristics of the experimental situation encouraged participants to view the articles, or at
least parts of them, as biased. Half the participants were cued to the possible presence of bias before they even saw the
articles, and all of the participants were asked to mark biased statements on a copy of the article. Research participants
are volunteers to begin with, and some have a tendency to try and give the researchers the results they are looking for.
We can see the consequences of demand in some of the statements readers considered biased: one student took
issue with just the phrase "...a sophomore from Willington..." and nothing else in the article, and another attributed bias
only to the final paragraph, "The next town hall meeting will be scheduled next month." Obviously, these readers were
looking for something to mark as biased, probably with the idea of being cooperative.
Despite these demand characteristics, almost 60% of the participants indicated that the article they had read
was entirely free from bias. Unsolicited comments written in the questionnaire’s margins included statements such as
"It’s just fine" and "Two quotes from each side...good." We have cause to be concerned about readers who perceive bias
where none really exists, but we also need to be aware that these readers are a minority.
Third: One in eight participants considered the article they read to be completely biased. This is unanticipated
and not predicted or predictable by Social Judgment theory, since these readers are clearly not focusing on individual
statements, whether pro, con or neutral. It seems possible that many of these people considered these articles to be
biased because these people consider all news media and reports to be biased, and the sources and consequences of this
perception need to be explored in future research.


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