The "primed" third-person effect of media portrayals about African Americans
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Using an online posttest-only control group experiment, this study explores how priming of different levels of media effects influences the third-person effect of media portrayals about African Americans. In the experiment, a total number of 200 participants were randomly assigned to read either an article about media’s power (strong media effects condition), an article about media’s lack of power (weak media effects condition) or nothing (control condition). The study reveals several important findings. First, reading an article about media’s strong effects influenced the perceptions of media effects on others. To be specific, people who were exposed to information about media’s strong effects perceived others of the same race (in-group) and others of different races (out-group) to be more influenced by media than people who did not read such article. Second, for those who read the article about media’s less powerful role, the article priming influence on the perceived media effects on the in-group others depended on one’s preexisting beliefs about media effects. In other words, as people held stronger beliefs about media power, the perceived media effects on the in-group others increased among those who read the weak media effects article. Third, as a behavioral consequence of perceived media effects, the intention to support media literacy education depended on perceived media effects on others, rather than self-other disparities. Reading the article about media’s weak effects also influenced the greater support for media literacy education. This study gives novel theoretical and practical contributions. First, beyond replicating the simple self-other disparities which the most previous third-person effect studies focused on, this study provides a new direction of linking the two theoretical frameworks – priming and the third-person effect-, thus deepening the understanding of psychological dimensions of person perceptions. In addition, the direct and immediate influence of messages on perceptions and behaviors suggests practical insights for persuasive tactics and media literacy.