Hostile Media Effect

Lauren Feldman

in Communication

ISBN: 9780199756841
Published online April 2012 | | DOI:
Hostile Media Effect

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The hostile media effect occurs when supporters or opponents of an issue perceive identical, balanced news coverage of that issue to be biased against their own side. Nonpartisans, on the other hand, would view this same content to be relatively unbiased. The hostile media effect exemplifies notions of the active media audience, in demonstrating that audiences do not passively receive media content but, rather, selectively interpret it in light of their own values and predispositions. Despite journalists’ best intentions to report news in a fair and objective way, partisans are motivated to see neutral content as harboring a hostile bias. The hostile media effect, also referred to in the literature as the “hostile media perception” and the “hostile media phenomenon,” was first empirically confirmed by Vallone, Ross, and Lepper in 1985 (see Vallone, et al. 1985, cited under Primary Texts) in the context of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Subsequent studies, using both experimental and survey methods, have documented hostile media perceptions in a variety of domains, including primate research, genetic modification of food, physician-assisted suicide, election campaigns, global warming, and a UPS strike, among others. Much of this research has focused on identifying the conditions under which hostile media perceptions occur and the psychological mechanisms that explain these perceptions. More recently, scholars have begun to examine the attitudinal and behavioral consequences of hostile media perceptions, demonstrating that the hostile media effect has implications for perceived public opinion, news consumption patterns, attitudes toward democratic institutions, and political discourse and participation.

Article.  6931 words. 

Subjects: Communication Studies

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