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Quantitative Research Analysis on Effects of Media-Driven Prejudice

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The media is one of the single most powerful industries in existence today. Not only can the media drive purchasing behavior and other societal attitudes, but it also influences prejudice and stereotypes. This sample research paper that explores the effects the media has on prejudice.

Media's influence on society's opinions

While some qualitative statistical evidence supports the reality of media-driven prejudice that impacts attitudes and perceptions, inferential quantitative research may best identify how racist attitudes or body image bias is inspired by media. The fact is media bias can and does influence audiences including prejudice, political opinions, and self-esteem. Obviously, such behavior patterns have their beginnings in one's thought world.

Feeling emotionally or psychologically depressed about being a couple of pounds overweight? The reasons why may be found in what the media is feeding viewers. The media drives all types of prejudice, and the quantitative research investigated herein will look at two main examples:

  1. Media images of idealized thin women in television and magazines
  2. Racist issues in cartoon media revolving around the presidential election

Exploring research about the power of media to persuade international audiences

The media is a powerful tool and is always doing work. One might ask, what sort of work? Mass media portrayals that demonize Afghanistan in “US Mass Media and Image of Afghanistan: Portrayal of Afghanistan by Newsweek and Time,” discusses and analyzes the content of twenty leading articles of which 57% show advertisements that are biased towards gender – thus depicting unfavorable coverage.

The major focus of this investigation looks at effects of media on prejudice by use of quantitative inferential research, in terms of statistical tests observation. But, other combined research efforts pertaining to media bias in perpetuating prejudice may include useful qualitative analysis data as well. To this end, it is also useful as well to consider the following. Certain Pacific Island peoples are facing discrimination largely due to biased characterizations in the New Zealand press.

Media's impact on social bias

The article, entitled “Pasifika in the News: The Portrayal of Pacific Peoples in the New Zealand Press” appears in Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology.

In it authors Loto et al., use qualitative and quantitative analysis to relate that in a 3-month period of publishing Pacific persons “are predominantly portrayed as unmotivated, unhealthy and criminal” (p. 100).

They inform the work closely resembles social psychology and explores issues of unconscious discrimination. Before delving into the main thesis, one more brief example as precursor is valuable. Media image bias can work in many directions. To prove the point reckon with the following. A write up appearing in a scholarly publication, Critical Arts: A South-North Journal Of Cultural & Media Studies, explores mainstream newspapers' response to accusations of racism.

Authors Durrheim, Quayle, Whitehead, and Kriel admit that apartheid helped shape a lopsided central political role and “the state created an environment that both controlled the information reaching the public and violated the freedom of the press” (p. 168).

All this at the outset helps validate the reality of media-driven prejudice in different forms and various styles.

The case of the Pacific Islanders

Turning attention back to the case of Pacific Islanders dealing with prejudice through the media being propagandized, social scientists have commented upon the effects to ethnic minorities.

Loto et al., identify King's and Wood's assessment that these biased media-driven prejudices impact of “silencing of voices” have “very real implications for the position of ethnic minorities in society, and their associated rights and life chances” (p. 102).

At this juncture one might be reminded of the aphorism: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Apparently, professional reputable psychologist/scientists think otherwise. Therefore being at such a disadvantage for truth-telling in mass media portrayals.

Loto et al., refer to a study by Macpherson, Spoonley, and Anae that interjects “poor mental health amongst ethnic minority groups can be attributed in part to people having insecure identities and being involved in unsatisfactory and domineering relationships with majority groups” (p. 102).

Stunning, yet not surprising. Possibly the most common forms of prejudices that come to mind when thinking of media-driven bias or skewed reporting in the press are issues of ethnicity, body image in regards to weight, or aspects of gender. Sometimes one misses seeing the trees for the proverbial forest. Prejudices come in many forms.

Portrayal of minorities in Afghan media

All of its media-driven power can often result in detrimental and unjust characterizations of entire groups of people thrown into judgment as if of a single monolith. A prime example extends the previous mention of mass media portrayal of Afghanistan by Newsweek and Time. Research explored:

  • Overall Afghanistan news coverage
  • The United States' foreign policy on media coverage and the Taliban
  • Impact of mass media strategy in cooperation with foreign policy
  • Expanded model for balancing the portrayals of the world's views towards Islam

A ten-year time period from 1991 to 2001 comprises the rubric of the analysis, sample stories deriving from Newsweek and Time, drawn on three categories of Islamic nations. US allies, US enemies, and neutrals fulfilled the mix.

The unit of analysis in the study, according to Shabir et al., “is each single sentence of the article of both the magazines” with the magazine's article serving as a context.

The precision with which the analysis occurred used an assessment method of inter and intra-coder reliability. One table showed a 75% number of unfavorable articles altogether from an extraction of just ten articles from each magazine.

Media's prejudice towards women and its impact on self-image

Moving on to capture an analysis of quantitative research on the matter of media-driven prejudice, a turn to an apropos study by Tiggeman and Polivy appearing in Psychology of Women Quarterly, assesses the processing of thin women's idealized media images. In other words, how are women reacting to or impacted by the bombardment of prejudicial media campaigns? Good question.

The statistical tests used a sample of 114 female-oriented fashion magazines' advertisements under three conditions of control, appearance comparison, and intelligence comparison (p. 356). The idea was to statistically measure a test of gender discrimination within the content played by media images to discover the impact.

By randomly assigning women to one of the several conditions mentioned above, and the method design entailed observance of subjects' mood state and body dissatisfaction and how women were processing what they viewed or experienced during exposure. Urban university Australian women between the ages of 18 and 35 participated, “a mean age of 20.07” with the greater majority of over 90 percent ethnically classified as White (p. 358).

The thin ideal model-type body images were presented and in the appearance comparison category, a scale of 1 to 7 was utilized, to rate themselves much less to much more physically attractive than the image. In keeping with the format, a much less thin to much thinner ranking choice was included.

How media uses mood to set the tone

The researchers calculated and analyzed mood intensities by scoring positive and negative as follows. Tiggeman and Polivy produced a “scale ranging from 0 (very negative mood) to 100 (very positive mood). The scale had acceptable internal reliability (α = .73)” and respectively forming a composite for measuring body dissatisfaction” (p. 358-359). The results took into account a watching of 2.6 hours of television and listening to 1.75 hours of radio listening daily.

Exactly half had purchased fashion magazines of Cosmopolitan or Woman's Day, of which model reading frequency was once a month. The quantitative results for instance, in the category of comparison processing for appearance, was F(2, 111) = 9.49, p .001. Some interpretation of the multi-layered aspects show the results that the outcome was such that women who felt better moods, had slightly less body dissatisfaction.

Self-image transposed onto models

Essentially then, with the study of looking at thin models' images in magazine ads, and its effect on women's mood and body dissatisfaction found that it affected mood but not physical dissatisfaction.

This self-reporting quantitative survey study also showed that “intelligence processing was related to positive outcomes, in particular, to lower body dissatisfaction” (p. 361).

Another way of stating it is the media's portrayal of sexuality directly affected the women's views of their bodies. Women who felt better about their intellectual selves cared less about living up to some utopian ideal of supposed model-like beauty.

This observer would also add that this study results may actually indicate that women are taking a pro-actively position when perusing magazine or television images, not simply blindly accepting what the media is offering as some instantly acceptable image of a fake model's so-called perfections which were most likely airbrushed, to begin with.

It is certainly common knowledge by now that famous super-model Cindy Crawford has stated that no way are her legs as long and lean as they appear in the ads because all the photographs are artificially enhanced. A sidebar to the effects of media on prejudice as pertains to idealized thin women's body images, it is worthwhile to note that heavier weights of women in the media are often put down or made to seem derogatory in some way.

Modern day racism as seen in the media

Moving forward, now shall issues of racism as encouraging prejudice from cartoon media images of presidential election candidates ensue. Zurbriggen and Sherman in “Race and Gender in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election: A Content Analysis of Editorial Cartoons” as published in Analyses Of Social Issues & Public Policy discusses media-driven prejudice on several levels.

However, these issues of ethnicity and gender converged during the 2008 presidential election campaign featuring Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. Zurbriggen and Sherman characterized the 2008 presidential election period as rife with “race and gender” issues, as being particularly “salient” with Democratic candidates providing “much media scrutiny and commentary” (p. 223). The content study for analysis, then obviously was based upon a series of editorial cartoons relative to gender and race.

Media influence on racism, prejudice, and stereotypes

Egregious examples of racism in the United States portrayed Obama on t-shirts with disgraceful slogans.

Some of which read “Obama is my slave” and the term of “tar baby” was flagrantly thrown around which as authors quote McEwan, reflects America's uneasiness with color consciousness to the point of “so many blatant examples” could be “easily identified and documented speaks volumes about the continued national” discomfort “with powerful men of color” (p. 224).

Having now set the backdrop for an explanation of the quantitative study at hand it is important to recognize that the authors inform that several studies indicate that candidates' media-driven images are fueled by ethnicity or gender.

Media's racial bias more discreet than gender discrimination

Having said that, data on color influences of media-driven prejudice are more subtle than gender which is perhaps why increased attention should be brought to it.

One clue is that when a non-White candidate is involved in an election race as opposed to an all-White set of candidates, the notion of “race” is mentioned “significantly more” in regard to voting behavior and “implicit racial prejudice” abiding (p. 225).

In any case the study's sampling method was taken from a website, www.gocomics.com, an archive of comic strips and 54 cartoonists, 46 of whom were White males. A single Asian and Latino were respectively represented. Three categories of political persuasion included conservative, moderate, or liberal according to authors. The selected sample consisted of 864 cartoon media images of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or John McCain for the analysis – 366 featuring visuals. The unit of analysis, of course, being the candidate.

Coded categories of racism and prejudice

Within the quantitative method standards the elements included coded categories, valence both overall and other valence codes, stereotypes, candidate name, coding reliability, and a couple of others. Since race is the focus of media prejudice in this section, valence codes and stereotypes will be commented upon. General valence codes in the study deemed candidates' portrayal as negative, positive, or neutral.

For example, positive would include notions of “integrity, honor, intelligence” while negative codes infer “evil, immoral, stupid, inexperienced, incompetent” and so on (p. 227).

The racist ideologies of America have evolved and were historically riddled in every facet of life, from before and since the inception of the United States assigned to African-Americans, is certainly no secret. One might easily imagine. Yet the list researchers Zurbriggen and Sherman choose suffices well for their quantitative analysis on the effects of media projected prejudice.

Attached to Black men are the stereotypical features of “gangster/criminal, urban/inner city, African, athletic, slave, musical (Black minstrel, or rap/hip-hop), poor, or lazy” (p. 228).

Computing racial impact of Obama and Clinton's campaign

Nevertheless to compute reliability standards the study randomly picked 10 percent of cartoons, and rating agreement ranged from roughly 84 percent to 100 percent. Furthermore, in terms of frequency, Obama and Clinton appeared about as equal while McCain with less frequency. The statistical data showed depictions were 71.0 percent more likely to be negative (n = 260) with Obama having less frequency of adverse portrayals with p.0001 as comparable to the other two.

The results in terms of gender/race variables were thus. Obama's name was not mentioned 69.2 percent of the time, the highest of the three. While the other candidates depicted in the cartoons had a zero documented “race stereotype,” Obama drew a 5.7 percent more likelihood of being cast in such light (p. 230). With ethnicity being central to the cartoon Obama led at 14.5 percent, with Clinton at 7.8, and McCain none.

Racism in political cartoons

Obama and Clinton are both shown in the laundry room, of Democrats' “dirty laundry” apparently since women are not supposed to be in this type of work and non-White candidates are implied to be rather an unwelcome oddity. As Clinton croaks, “The Whites are mine.”

The results generally portrayed Obama as a counter-stereotype, angelic and smart, which obviously flies in the face of African-American stereotypes of lazy, stupid, uneducated and such. Such an obvious opposite tends to highlight the racist stereotype – especially when it pits the so-deemed good Blacks, from the bad ones. Notice they are both doing chores in the laundry room.

Before closing one extremely interesting study published in the peer-reviewed journal New Genetics and Society, perhaps represents one of the most disturbing media-driven practices of perpetuating prejudice.

The study by Lynch, Bevan, Achter, Harris, and Condit examine media “depictions of genetics” that increase believes in discrimination and racism wherein results of their research unveiled an outcome of “genetically based racism” (p. 43).

The paper exposes messages about genetics that lend towards connections encouraging a basis for racism and feeds media “influence on racist attitudes” (p. 43). It represents a strange and complex intersection of scholarly genetics studies, eugenics, and media portrayals that have social scientists researchers worried.

Implications of prejudice-driven media

Reading one's 'genes' is a dangerous imprecise business. In the world of work, education, or medical care, the implications of race relations in America are alarming. Quite conveniently persons may be officially branded and thus legally relegated to a position of permanent under-class by using genetically driven racism. Marry this notion to the media and jurisprudence and it's no wonder critics may be concerned. These may be the seeds of an ugly three-headed monster that only God can kill.

Nevertheless, Lynch et al., proceed to suggest that investigative studies about the ethics of biologically-based racial inferiority “can stigmatize groups as well as individuals” as a result of so-called scientific means" (p. 46).

The study goes on to identify participants as female, white, male, Hispanic, African-American, Asian, or Bi/multiracial. A five-point Likert scale was utilized to examine genetic discrimination – that is – as a testing measurement for racist attitudes resting upon exposure to accompanying media messages. Words themselves are powerful, powerful things. They can be used as weapons of war, or balms of healing and reconciliation.


If an image or picture is worth a thousand words, how potent are the graphically auditory, and moving visuals of video effecting society as individuals? Further study and compilation to the current literature is sorely needed. And the Lynch et al., study provides an opportunity to pick up from where they leave off. The researchers use of a racial denial scales, sample t-tests, a modern racism scale, and eight items that comprise a genetically based racial discrimination format, quantitatively, bears deeper exploration.

The implications of any results discussed can, and will, for the most part, be argued. Dialogue is critically vital to continue whether Afghanistan, women's body images, presidential candidates, or negative images of Pacific Island peoples are at stake.

Watt and Larkin declare “Media prejudice predicted community attitudes” (p. 710). However, at the end of the day the common glue that binds is humanity.


Durrheim, K., Quayle, M., Whitehead, K., & Kriel, A. (2005). Denying racism: Discursive strategies used by the South African media. Critical Arts: A South-North Journal Of Cultural & Media Studies, 19(1/2), 167-186.

Loto, R., Hodgetts, D., Chamberlain, K., Nikora, L., Karapu, R., & Barnett, A. (2006). Pasifika in the news: the portrayal of Pacific peoples in the New Zealand press. Journal Of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 16(2), 100-118. doi:10.1002/casp.848

Lynch, J., Bevan, J., Achter, P., Harris, T., & Condit, C. M. (2008). A preliminary study of how multiple exposures to messages about genetics impact on lay attitudes towards racial and genetic discrimination. New Genetics & Society, 27(1), 43-56. doi:10.1080/14636770701843634

Shabir, G., Ali, S., & Iqbal, Z. (2011). US Mass Media and Image of Afghanistan: Portrayal of Afghanistan by Newsweek and Time. South Asian Studies (1026-678X), 26(1), 83-101.

Tiggemann, M., & Polivy, J. (2010). UPWARD AND DOWNWARD: SOCIAL COMPARISON PROCESSING OF THIN IDEALIZED MEDIA IMAGES. Psychology Of Women Quarterly, 34(3), 356-364. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.2010.01581.x

Watt, S. E., & Larkin, C. (2010). Prejudiced people perceive more community support for their views: The role of own, media, and peer attitudes in perceived consensus. [Abstract]. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40(3), 710-731. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1559- 1816.2010.00594.x



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