Congratulations to Mary Brinson, PhD, who will be awarded the Lynda Lee Kaid Outstanding Dissertation Award by the Political Communication division at the National Communication Association in November titled, “Muslims in the media: Intercultural consequences of an Islamophobic media system.”
This study compares the effects of positive versus negative media portrayals of Muslims, on both Muslim and non-Muslim Americans employing a two by three experimental design, with three conditions (negative condition, positive condition, control condition) and two groups (Muslims, non-Muslims). The experiment measures the impact of media frames on Muslim and non-Muslim responses to questions regarding their attitudes about each other, their perceptions regarding societal acceptance and views of Muslims and their acculturation preferences. Muslim participants (N=183) were tested for both direct and indirect effects of the media on their responses to questions regarding their ethnic identity, collective self-esteem, socialization, attitudes about Westerners, social and economic boundary permeability, and acculturation styles. Non-Muslim participants (N=189) were examined for how the same media frames impact their attitudes about Muslims and their perceptions regarding societal acceptance of Muslims. Participants viewed seven minute video manipulations online (with the exception of the control group), either containing images of Muslims as well-integrated positive influences on society, or as threats to safety and vulnerable to Jihad.
Results from post-test responses indicated that varying media portrayals had a significant effect on both Muslims and non-Muslims regarding attitudes about each other, collective self-esteem, perceptions about majority opinion, and perceptions about boundaries. Exposure to positive media portrayals of Muslims increased both the levels of trust that Muslims reported regarding non-Muslim Americans, as well as the levels of trust that non-Muslims report regarding Muslim Americans. Positive portrayals were significantly more likely than negative portrayals to increase collective esteem of Muslim participants, and led to Muslim perceptions that Westerners held more favorable attitudes towards them. Positive portrayals also had a direct effect on perceptions of more permeable boundaries between Muslims and non-Muslims. Mediation analysis also found that the media portrayals had a significant indirect effect on preferences for acculturation styles, where positive media portrayals had an indirect effect on Muslim preference for the most preferred acculturations style of integration, and negative portrayals had an indirect effect on the least preferred style of acculturation of marginalization.
This study has strong social implications, in its advancement of our understanding of the variables that contribute to intergroup isolation and conflict – as well as theoretical contributions in our knowledge of the impact of indirect media effects, the variables that influence acculturation, and stereotyping research.