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TV news may lead to racial bias

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Residents celebrate in west Baltimore, Maryland, the United States, May 1, 2015. Maryland state prosecutor on Friday announced criminal charges against all six Baltimore police officers involved in the death of the 25-year-old black man Freddie Gray.

Residents celebrate in west Baltimore, Maryland, the United States, May 1, 2015. Maryland state prosecutor on Friday announced criminal charges against all six Baltimore police officers involved in the death of the 25-year-old black man Freddie Gray.
Residents celebrate in west Baltimore, Maryland, the United States, May 1, 2015. Maryland state prosecutor on Friday announced criminal charges against all six Baltimore police officers involved in the death of the 25-year-old black man Freddie Gray.

Regularly watching television news or reading crime articles in newspapers may lead to racial bias towards social groups, new research suggests.

The study examined the effects of news coverage in two cultural contexts – in the US and in Austria.

“The results of the studies suggest that in both these countries, regular exposure to stereotypical news coverage creates negative implicit attitudes,” said the researcher Temple Northup, assistant professor at the University of Houston (UH).

A total of 316 individuals participated in the first study in the US. Participants completed the Implicit Association Test (IAT), a tool used in psychology to measure hidden bias people may have but are unwilling or unable to report.

“Based on the results from the study in the US, long-term exposure to television news, wherein African-Americans are depicted frequently and stereotypically as criminals, predicted increased negative implicit attitudes toward African-Americans,” Northup said.

“Viewers who watched more local television news demonstrated more unconscious negative attitudes toward African-Americans.”

Another study involving 470 individuals in Austria investigated how much newspaper content participants are exposed to and the kind of articles they read.

The researchers found that reading content specifically about crime had a significant effect on implicit attitude toward foreigners.

“The findings from the study in the US suggest individuals who consumed more local television news than others in the study may have increased negative racial bias towards African-Americans,” Northup said.

“In Austria, individuals who read more crime-related articles in a tabloid-style weekly newspaper tended to have an increased negative racial bias toward ‘foreigners’.”

The study was published in the International Journal of Communication.

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