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Investigating The Relationship Between Television Portrayal Of African Americans And Behavior Responses Toward African Americans

6384 words - 26 pages

Investigating the Relationship Between Television Portrayal of African Americans and Behavior Responses Toward African Americans
This research sought to examine the relationship between television
news portrayals of African Americans and subsequent behavioral
responses toward African Americans. While this research was not able
to clearly illuminate the specific link between portrayal and
behavior, this research is able to suggest a model for future studies
into such relationships.

[Headnote]
This research sought to examine the relationship between television
news portrayals of African Americans and subsequent behavioral
responses toward African Americans. While this research was not able
to clearly illuminate the specific link between portrayal and
behavior, this research is able to suggest a model for future studies
into such relationships.

The portrayal of African Americans in television drama, news and
sports coverage has been analyzed by journalists and scholars (see
Corea, 1993; Dates, 1990; Entman 1990, 1992, 1994; Jackson, 1989;
Lule, 1995; MacDonald, 1992; Rada, 1996; Rainville & McCormick, 1997;
Staples & Jones, 1985; U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1977; and
U.S.Riot Commission Report, 1968). While the literature has addressed
the content of these media portrayals (or-as the research has
shownmisportrayals), and speculated on their impact, few protocols
have been suggested for assessing their effect upon African Americans
or upon others in the television audience.

To measure the effect of a media portrayal, a study design must
include a reasonable behavioral result from viewing the portrayal. At
the same time the behavioral result must be captured in an unobtrusive
way that will not compromise the ecological validity of the study. One
construct that meets both these criteria-and employed in this study-is
the prosocial expression of altruism, or a willingness to help.

In investigating a relationship between portrayal and effect, other
possible effects on the behavioral response must be controlled or
explained. For this research, the personality construct dogmatism was
used as a means to identify audience members who can be influenced by
the nature of a media portrayal. Dogmatism allowed an adaptation of
the empathy-altruism hypothesis; a causal model extensively validated
in social psychological research to explain the internal processes
which produce altruism, an audience member's willingness to help a
person similar to those in a given media portrayal. This modification
of the empathy-altruism hypothesis will permit an estimate of
short-term effects of favorable and unfavorable portrayals of African
Americans in television news stories.

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