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An Experimental Evaluation of Readers' Perceptions of Media Bias
Unformatted Document Text:  Media Bias - 5 articles in the margins of the articles as they were reading them. Participants indicated significantly more reactions to material they perceived as biased than that they considered unbiased, and were more likely to agree, disagree and question the material in the stories that they also perceived as biased. A flaw in the Stevenson and Greene research is that participants in the study self-selected into conditions of seeing the articles as biased or not. Unfortunately, this leads to the possibility that the findings are the result of capitalization on chance. The Watt, et al., study’s results strongly suggest that the perception of bias can be experimentally manipulated, and by doing so we can avoid possible confounding by capitalization on chance. Relativity in perceptions Proceeding from the standpoint of Social Judgment theory (Sherif & Hovland, 1961), Giner-Sorolla and Chaiken (1994) explored the nature of audience reactions to specific content elements in media. Social Judgment theory suggests that people process statements on a variety of issues relative to their own positions on those issues: statements close to the user’s own position fall within a "latitude of acceptance" and are judged as agreeing with the user, while stated positions that are substantially different than the user’s position are grouped into a "latitude of rejection," and are subsequently rejected. Giner-Sorolla and Chaiken (1994) reasoned that users would be more likely to describe statements in news reports which fell into the users’ latitudes of rejection as "biased" than other statements. They selected two test issues, the Arab-Israeli conflict and abortion, and located (via pretest) NYU students who were on either side of each issue. They then presented the students with video compilations of news material which included explications of the key arguments of persons on either side of each issue. They found that partisans on either side of the Middle East issue found the coverage favorable to the opposition to be a source of bias in the reports (as predicted by social judgment theory), presumably because the users were focusing on statements falling into their latitudes of rejection. This finding proved topic-dependent, as partisans on the abortion issue did not reject the mediated reports of the opposition’s statements and so did not systematically describe them as being biased. Social Judgment theory implies that that people have a tendency to simplify their processing of information about positions on issues by reducing a continuum of positions into a relatively small number (acceptable/rejectable) of categories. Related to this simplification process is that Roumer, Slater and Buddenbaum (1999) have shown that readers consider the source of a statement in evaluating the degree to which the statement is biased. Essentially, they provided readers with both statements and also short biographies of the putative speakers, the biographies having been

Authors: D'Alessio, Dave.
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Media Bias - 5
articles in the margins of the articles as they were reading them. Participants indicated significantly more reactions to
material they perceived as biased than that they considered unbiased, and were more likely to agree, disagree and
question the material in the stories that they also perceived as biased.
A flaw in the Stevenson and Greene research is that participants in the study self-selected into conditions of
seeing the articles as biased or not. Unfortunately, this leads to the possibility that the findings are the result of
capitalization on chance. The Watt, et al., study’s results strongly suggest that the perception of bias can be
experimentally manipulated, and by doing so we can avoid possible confounding by capitalization on chance.
Relativity in perceptions
Proceeding from the standpoint of Social Judgment theory (Sherif & Hovland, 1961), Giner-Sorolla and
Chaiken (1994) explored the nature of audience reactions to specific content elements in media. Social Judgment
theory suggests that people process statements on a variety of issues relative to their own positions on those issues:
statements close to the user’s own position fall within a "latitude of acceptance" and are judged as agreeing with the
user, while stated positions that are substantially different than the user’s position are grouped into a "latitude of
rejection," and are subsequently rejected.
Giner-Sorolla and Chaiken (1994) reasoned that users would be more likely to describe statements in news
reports which fell into the users’ latitudes of rejection as "biased" than other statements. They selected two test issues,
the Arab-Israeli conflict and abortion, and located (via pretest) NYU students who were on either side of each issue.
They then presented the students with video compilations of news material which included explications of the key
arguments of persons on either side of each issue. They found that partisans on either side of the Middle East issue
found the coverage favorable to the opposition to be a source of bias in the reports (as predicted by social judgment
theory), presumably because the users were focusing on statements falling into their latitudes of rejection. This finding
proved topic-dependent, as partisans on the abortion issue did not reject the mediated reports of the opposition’s
statements and so did not systematically describe them as being biased.
Social Judgment theory implies that that people have a tendency to simplify their processing of information
about positions on issues by reducing a continuum of positions into a relatively small number (acceptable/rejectable) of
categories. Related to this simplification process is that Roumer, Slater and Buddenbaum (1999) have shown that
readers consider the source of a statement in evaluating the degree to which the statement is biased. Essentially, they
provided readers with both statements and also short biographies of the putative speakers, the biographies having been


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