Information and language in news impact prejudice against minorities

May 23, 2019

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 group - 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 report 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.

Nouns arouse prejudice more than adjectives

The fact 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 immigrant'. Previous studies have shown that information about a certain person described with a noun 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 («a saving Roma») led to more pronounced prejudice against the given ethnic group than adjectives («a Roma saviour»). «Nouns enhance existing prejudice more than adjectives, independently of the positivity or negativity of newspaper articles - even if news report on positive events», says Graf.
-end-
Publication: Graf, S., Linhartova, P., & Sczesny, S. (2019). The effects of news report valence and linguistic labels on prejudice against social minorities. Media Psychology. Doi:1080/15213269.2019.1584571. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15213269.2019.1584571

Contacts:
Dr habil. Sylvie Graf
Institute of Psychology, Social Psychology and Social Neuroscience, University of Bern
Email: Sylvie.Graf@psy.unibe.ch
Tel.: +41 75 416 96 03

Prof. Dr. Sabine Sczesny
Institute of Psychology, Social Psychology and Social Neuroscience, University of Bern
Email: Sabine.Sczesny@psy.unibe.ch
Tel.: +41 31 631 33 94

Other publication mentioned in the text: Carnaghi, A., Maass, A., Gresta, S., Bianchi, M., Cadinu, M., & Arcuri, L. (2008). Nomina sunt omina: on the inductive potential of nouns and adjectives in person perception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 5, 839-859. Doi:10.1037/0022-3514.94.5.839

Institute of Psychology, Division of Social Psychology and Social Neuroscience

The Division of Social Psychology and Social Neuroscience investigates general principles of human behavior and decisions in a social context.

Further information: http://www.soz.psy.unibe.ch/index_eng.html

University of Bern

Related Language Articles from Brightsurf:

Learning the language of sugars
We're told not to eat too much sugar, but in reality, all of our cells are covered in sugar molecules called glycans.

How effective are language learning apps?
Researchers from Michigan State University recently conducted a study focusing on Babbel, a popular subscription-based language learning app and e-learning platform, to see if it really worked at teaching a new language.

Chinese to rise as a global language
With the continuing rise of China as a global economic and trading power, there is no barrier to prevent Chinese from becoming a global language like English, according to Flinders University academic Dr Jeffrey Gil.

'She' goes missing from presidential language
MIT researchers have found that although a significant percentage of the American public believed the winner of the November 2016 presidential election would be a woman, people rarely used the pronoun 'she' when referring to the next president before the election.

How does language emerge?
How did the almost 6000 languages of the world come into being?

New research quantifies how much speakers' first language affects learning a new language
Linguistic research suggests that accents are strongly shaped by the speaker's first language they learned growing up.

Why the language-ready brain is so complex
In a review article published in Science, Peter Hagoort, professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Radboud University and director of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, argues for a new model of language, involving the interaction of multiple brain networks.

Do as i say: Translating language into movement
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a computer model that can translate text describing physical movements directly into simple computer-generated animations, a first step toward someday generating movies directly from scripts.

Learning language
When it comes to learning a language, the left side of the brain has traditionally been considered the hub of language processing.

Learning a second alphabet for a first language
A part of the brain that maps letters to sounds can acquire a second, visually distinct alphabet for the same language, according to a study of English speakers published in eNeuro.

Read More: Language News and Language Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.