Information and language in news impact prejudice against minorities

Information and language in news impact prejudice against minorities
Study author Dr. Sylvie Graf, Institute of Psychology, Social Psychology and Social Neuroscience, University of Bern. Credit: Sylvie Graf

Sylvie Graf and Sabine Sczesny from the Institute of Psychology at the University of Bern are investigating how positivity or negativity of news about immigrants and language that describes immigrants in mass media shape prejudice against them. Their project, "Immigrants in the Media," is funded by the European Commission. The psychologists recently published the results of three experimental studies in the journal Media Psychology.

Positive news reduce prejudice

In the studies, the researchers examined prejudice against two negatively perceived groups—the Roma and Kosovo Albanians—and one positively perceived —Italian immigrants. The studies were carried out in different cultural contexts—namely the Czech Republic and Switzerland. Participants in the studies read fictitious newspaper reports that described either positive (e.g., helping), negative (e.g., attacking), or mixed (e.g., helping and attacking) behaviours of immigrants. Across the studies, prejudice against the given minority group changed after having read a single about the acts of its members. "Positive reports led to less pronounced prejudice, while negative reports led to more pronounced prejudice against the described minority group," explains Sylvie Graf. Interestingly, mixed reports that contained both positive and negative information also reduced prejudice—like the positive reports. "This suggests that including positive information into negative news may attenuate prejudice," according to Graf.

Information and language in news impact prejudice against minorities
Study author Professor Dr. Sabine Sczesny, Institute of Psychology, Social Psychology and Social Neuroscience, University of Bern. Credit: Luca Christen

Nouns arouse prejudice more than adjectives

Whether a report is positive or negative is usually clear. However, news can also contain subtler cues, which shape how people view minorities. An example of such cues are the small variations in language describing the ethnicity of immigrants. A person can be either described as an "immigrated Italian" or an "Italian ." Previous studies have shown that information about a certain person described with a influences our opinion about the given person to a greater extent than the same information described by an adjective. For instance, people believed that a Catholic would attend a church more regularly than a Catholic person—despite the fact that both the noun and adjective are the same word and describe the very same thing, namely a person's religion. No study before has systematically tested the effect of nouns and adjectives in positive versus negative texts. Graf and colleagues showed that nouns used for describing ethnicity ("saving Roma") led to more pronounced prejudice against the given ethnic group than adjectives ("Roma saviour"). "Nouns enhance existing more than adjectives, independently of the positivity or negativity of newspaper articles—even if news report on positive events," says Graf.


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More information: Sylvie Graf et al, The effects of news report valence and linguistic labels on prejudice against social minorities, Media Psychology (2019). DOI: 10.1080/15213269.2019.1584571
Provided by University of Bern
Citation: Information and language in news impact prejudice against minorities (2019, May 23) retrieved 19 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-05-language-news-impact-prejudice-minorities.html
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May 23, 2019
When I read this kind of story, I always wonder how objective the scientist and writer are about the articles subject matter. Do they have a agenda they are purposely or subconsciously projecting. I would like to read a study on the objectivity of these kinds of social research articles. Please understand I am not accusing anyone of anything about this particular article.

May 23, 2019
What positive news do the researchers recommend for someone who just had his wallet stolen by Gypsies, in order to cure his possible future prejudice?

May 23, 2019
The study says it "may attenuate prejudice". Not cure.

But since you're asking, probably the same type of positive news recommended for an Southern Asian person who just got their wallet stolen by a European.

May 23, 2019
What positive news do the researchers recommend for someone who just had his wallet stolen by Gypsies, in order to cure his possible future prejudice?

I had a home invasion a few years ago. I would never write a article about the punishment that would be reasonable for a home invasion. At LEAST without making it abundantly clear in the article about my personal experience and probable prejudice.

May 24, 2019
What positive news are the researchers reading to cure their prejudice that people get prejudiced by reading the news, and not by directly interacting with the Gypsies and the Kosovo Albanians?

May 24, 2019
The study says it "may attenuate prejudice". Not cure.

But since you're asking, probably the same type of positive news recommended for an Southern Asian person who just got their wallet stolen by a European.


Having a lot of experience in being victim of crime in Europe, I would say that there is 99% chance that those criminal "Europeans" are Gypsies, Kosovo Albanians or Northern Africans.

May 24, 2019
I would say that there is 99% chance that those criminal "Europeans" are Gypsies, Kosovo Albanians or Northern Africans.

If you do a study that shows that, and the study is not based on arrests(which can be easily skewed). Then other than doing more research, who are we to argue with the facts?

May 28, 2019
The Crusades: A History, 3rd Ed. by Jonathan Riley-Smith (2014, Bloomsbury)

May 28, 2019
The Crusades: A History, 3rd Ed. by Jonathan Riley-Smith (2014, Bloomsbury)


The crusades? You have to be kidding me! What about the Mexican American war, Japan, Germany, Canada, Confederate war, even Michigan - Ohio war etc.? The list goes on and on.

May 29, 2019
The Crusades: A History, 3rd Ed. by Jonathan Riley-Smith (2014, Bloomsbury)


The crusades? You have to be kidding me! What about the Mexican American war, Japan, Germany, Canada, Confederate war, even Michigan - Ohio war etc.? The list goes on and on.
The Saracens started it - in the Sixth Century of the Christian (trigger!) Era, wheeling carts full of infidel heads through Iberian cities to terrorize the inhabitants.

May 29, 2019
Bah. Refighting the Crusades is pointless.

May 29, 2019
@Doug_Nightmare

fyi, You don't have to call the date by Christian imposed linguistics anymore. You can say CE (common era) and BCE (before common era). This is an internationally recognized system now.

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