Media Psych Studies

A portfolio of work for media psychology research

Media Bias Reveals Patterns of Trust and Dependency

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Bias is built exclusively from personal interests. Favoritism towards certain ideas, products, and activities are developed from a pattern of consumption. The more I regularly consume something, the more comfortable I am with it and the meanings that lie underneath. To reveal how our biases are determined by the mediums we consume, people can conduct a Media Bias Inventory to discover how the information we immerse ourselves with is filtered to meet our needs. Having performed this self-analysis, I will use this post to reveal what new information I discovered about myself in terms of media consumption and effects.

 
The Media Bias exercise asks participants to consciously look at themselves while consuming media. The goal is to point out what filters our biases, and as a result, leaves behind neglected information. The steps of this activity include: (a) make a list of your media sources, (b) observe yourself consuming media, (c) determine the bias in your sources/are they fair and balanced or represent particular viewpoints, and (d) recognize your automatic response to a news story (Ohler, 2010). Doing this assignment solidified things that I already knew about myself, such as the fact that if I am in control, I will consume only what is of my interests. But I did learn two things about my patterns of consumption – 1) the role of endorsements and 2) my dependency on technology.

A large part of the content I consume (e.g. news, entertainment, products, etc.) is because somebody else in my circle told me about it. Take for example Twitter. Even though it’s built as a global social networking platform, to me Twitter is one giant referral for content. A significant amount of what I consume on twitter is retweeted (RT) from someone that I already follow and trust because of already established mutual interests. Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 7.18.32 PMAnd since I already know who that original person is, I trust them to only reference, endorse, and RT something that is worthy of my attention. As a result, I am often presented with new information that I ordinarily wouldn’t have discovered on my own. This process positions the people I follow to act as digital foot soldiers fighting to bring me news. I believe this keeps my biases in tact because I consume little else outside of my trusted circle. And I was not cognizant of this prior to completing the Media Bias Inventory.

The second revelation I had from this assignment is in regards to media effects from a media literacy 1.0 perspective. According to Ohler (2010), media literacy 1.0 refers strictly to consumption, in that it concerns “how mass media was being used to persuade and convince its audience to think in particular ways, buy certain products, and otherwise influence their behavior” (p.212). I observed that through my consumption of media, I am accepting the information as facts without question because my bias filter has eliminated any possibility of alternative viewpoints. Is this perfect? Probably not. But it is an honest assessment and leaves room for me to “reprogram” my relationship with media.

In their article titled “A Dependency Model of Mass-Media Effects,” authors S.J. Ball-Rokeach and M.L. DeFleur (1976) note that this type of media acceptance comes from a place of audience dependency. From this point of view, Ball-Rokeach and DeFleur (1976) believe that depending on media sources to provide information shows an “interactive condition for alteration of audience beliefs, behavior, or feelings as a result of mass communicated information” (p.3). Twitter is a constantly updated source of information produced from interaction. Because it hinges on engagement, users of Twitter (myself included at times) develop a dependency towards it to deliver content. As Ball-Rokeach and DeFleur (1976) state, audience dependency is more likely to occur in societies where media serves “many central information functions and [operates] in periods of rapid social change or pervasive social conflict” (p.3). Considering how technology has impacted today’s social climate, I can say that media (especially Twitter) effectively serves a fast-paced environment.

The Media Bias Inventory assignment is a great personal exercise that asked me to look at what I consume and how. Through it I recognize that the information and media I consume is completely based on my interests. Through platforms that provide endless interactive content like Twitter, I recognize that I have created a filter of information by unconsciously accepting the retweeted or endorsed content of those that I choose to follow. As a result, a dependency for this medium is made. I encourage anyone who consumes media to complete this exercise so that they may become aware of their own favoritisms and what they are leaving behind. To question the ideas that feel like common sense and investigate how we got to that point of natural acceptance, is both a humbling and powerful process. I intend to refer back to my summary to see if I have changed in anyway when the next big platform surfaces and replaces Twitter.

References

Ball-Rokeach, S. J., & DeFleur, M. L. (1976). A Dependency Model of MassMedia

Effects. Communication Research, 3(1), 3-21. doi:10.1177/009365027600300101

Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin Press.

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