Study finds news media may influence racial bias

Jun 3, 2015

A University of Houston study found local TV news may influence racial bias.
Credit WBFO

A new study from the University of Houston finds news media may influence racial bias.

The study found viewers who watch more local TV news demonstrate more unconscious negative attitudes toward African Americans.

The Study's Author Temple Northrup joined WBFO's Jay Moran on Morning Edition today to talk about his findings....

"There's been a lot of research done that generally suggested that African Americans are over represented as criminals on the news," says Northrup. "So there's already a focus of crime in local television news but of that crime African Americans tend to be over represented compared to their actual crime rates. So I began to think, well if this is going on, if we're seeing a lot of negative stereotypes within the news media, what are the lasting impacts of that over time?" 

Northrup used a relatively new psychological tool called the Implicit Association Test to approach the question to determine if there may be an unconscious bias at play. The Implicit Association Test is a word association test. 

Northrup says "You actually have images of African Americans and Caucasians flashed on the screen with words that you have to sort. Sometimes good words will be sorted with African American, sometimes good will be sorted with Caucasian and same with bad. What you find is generally people who are bias, it takes them longer to pare what good is supposed to be with African American than good with Caucasian. So that gets a hidden connection in the mind where negativity is generally associated with African Americans and positivity generally associated with being Caucasians."

Northup says he hopes the study will create an awareness amongst the public of how the media relies on stereotypes and how those stereotypes impact us. Hopefully, he adds, the media will become more aware of how issues are framed.