Hyun Soon Park and Charles T. Salmon, Third-Person Effect in Public Relations
Thesis: The study examines third-person effects in a news release, which could be different from other media content already studied. “This study explores the third-person effect in public relations and examines situational variables such as a message topic, message valence, perceived desirability of being affected by the message, and receiver characteristics.”
Synopsis/Support: The main goal of this study is examining the third-person effect in public relations, and the factors of it through using the social comparison theory. The third-person effect “occurs when an individual believes that mass media content has greater influence on other people than on himself or herself, a belief that often leads to subsequent action.” The article described two components of the third-person effect, which are perception and behavior. Perception is about the belief that the media impacts other people more than we think it impacts ourselves. The behavior component either “prevents harmful communication or support for beneficial communication.”
Social comparison theory helps experts to study and draw explanations of the third-person effect. The theory is essentially about people who evaluate their opinions objectively, but if they can’t do that then they compare themselves to other people. This relates the third-person effect to “cognitive bias in comparative judgment of media effect on the self and on others that usually occurs through a self-enhancement mechanism.” The effect causes individuals to believe they are smarter than others, so they think they are immune to media messages. Some studies found the opposite of the third-person perception because the subjects thought they were affected more by positive messages than others.
A study was done specifically to test how the third-person effect relates to news releases in public relations. The study had two news...