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An Experimental Evaluation of Readers' Perceptions of Media Bias
Unformatted Document Text:  Media Bias - 15 Fourth: Previous researchers had concluded that users who expected bias were more likely to indicate that they had seen biased material than other readers who did not. Our results clearly show that this process is far more complex than previously thought. Although participants in the "cued" condition were more likely to use the term "biased" to describe the article they read, they neither marked more statements as biased nor were they less likely to describe the article they read as entirely free from bias, as demonstrated by the lack of a significant main effect for cued condition in the ANOVA results. This finding is consistent with the Watts, et al., conclusion that the public perception of bias is related to charges of bias but not actual bias. Together, their findings and ours suggest another form of cognitive simplification has been brought into play, this one related to the bandwagon effect (Kaplowitz, Fink, D’Alessio & Armstrong, 1983), in which people simply "go along" with majoritarian positions. Cued persons don't seem to actually find more bias: they just say they do. This finding, and the previous one, are also consistent with limited processing models of persuasion, suggesting as they so a fairly simple, context-based form of processing rather than the parsing and analysis of individual statements. This will need to be explored in the future. Fifth: We have verified that the perception of bias is topic-dependent. The exact nature of that topic dependence remains to be explicated, although it should be noted that perceptions of bias seem to be most closely associated with overtly political news content. If we consider "politics" in a fairly narrow sense of the word, as in the dealings of parties and nation-states, then we see for several of the political topics studied, including the Middle East conflict and Presidential popularity, participants responded as though the stories were biased. Participants did not respond as strongly to stories on topics such as abortion or parking on campus. Sixth: We have replicated findings consistent with Social Judgment theory. Most importantly, we have replicated Giner-Sorolla and Chaiken's finding that users focus their responses on positions different than those they themselves hold. Since an essential element of both fairness and balance in reporting is the representation of all sides of an issue, we see how a reader could look at a story that a trained journalist or ombudsman would say is clearly fair and balanced, and describe that story as biased: it is because the readers' responses are focused on the material falling into latitudes of rejection.

Authors: D'Alessio, Dave.
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Media Bias - 15
Fourth: Previous researchers had concluded that users who expected bias were more likely to indicate that they
had seen biased material than other readers who did not. Our results clearly show that this process is far more complex
than previously thought. Although participants in the "cued" condition were more likely to use the term "biased" to
describe the article they read, they neither marked more statements as biased nor were they less likely to describe the
article they read as entirely free from bias, as demonstrated by the lack of a significant main effect for cued condition in
the ANOVA results.
This finding is consistent with the Watts, et al., conclusion that the public perception of bias is related to
charges of bias but not actual bias. Together, their findings and ours suggest another form of cognitive simplification
has been brought into play, this one related to the bandwagon effect (Kaplowitz, Fink, D’Alessio & Armstrong, 1983),
in which people simply "go along" with majoritarian positions. Cued persons don't seem to actually find more bias:
they just say they do.
This finding, and the previous one, are also consistent with limited processing models of persuasion,
suggesting as they so a fairly simple, context-based form of processing rather than the parsing and analysis of
individual statements. This will need to be explored in the future.
Fifth: We have verified that the perception of bias is topic-dependent. The exact nature of that topic
dependence remains to be explicated, although it should be noted that perceptions of bias seem to be most closely
associated with overtly political news content. If we consider "politics" in a fairly narrow sense of the word, as in the
dealings of parties and nation-states, then we see for several of the political topics studied, including the Middle East
conflict and Presidential popularity, participants responded as though the stories were biased. Participants did not
respond as strongly to stories on topics such as abortion or parking on campus.
Sixth: We have replicated findings consistent with Social Judgment theory. Most importantly, we have
replicated Giner-Sorolla and Chaiken's finding that users focus their responses on positions different than those they
themselves hold. Since an essential element of both fairness and balance in reporting is the representation of all sides of
an issue, we see how a reader could look at a story that a trained journalist or ombudsman would say is clearly fair and
balanced, and describe that story as biased: it is because the readers' responses are focused on the material falling into
latitudes of rejection.


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