- Published on Mar 30, 2007
- Contact Jared Wadley
Multiple factors predict teens' negative stereotypes of other groups, including the amount of time they spend with friends who have those beliefs, said co-principal investigator Eric Dubow, an adjunct research scientist at the U-M's Institute for Social Research and a professor at Bowling Green State University. But media exposure to news about the middle-east conflict appears to be one important element.
The study's principal investigator L. Rowell Huesmann, the Amos N. Tversky Collegiate Professor of Communication Studies and Psychology at the U-M, will present the findings Sunday (April 1) at the Society for Research in Child Development conference in Boston. He directs ISR's Research Center for Group Dynamics (RCGD), which conducted the empirical study.
"Our findings show that American high school students interpret the televised scenes of violence from the Middle East quite differently depending on their own ethnic background and identification," Huesmann said. "For example, each ethnic group thinks that most of the violence they see on TV is perpetrated by the other ethnic group."
Researchers gathered responses from 229 9th and 12th grade Arab-American and Jewish-American high school students, who were asked about their exposure to newscasts about the middle-east conflict and their attitudes and beliefs about the other ethnic group, as well as their own ethnic identity. Although students indicated that they "often" were exposed to media coverage of the conflict, about half of both groups said they received their news "once a week or less" from television, newspapers, radio and the Internet.
? A unique element of the study was the use of two reaction time tasks to assess "unconscious" prejudice on the part of the respondents: In the Implicit Association Test, students pressed a computer key as rapidly as they could when a Jewish name or pleasant word appeared on the monitor and another key if an Arab name or unpleasant word appeared. The pairings then were reversed.
? In the Weapons Identification Task, students tried to identify a picture presented on a computer screen for only 50 milliseconds as a gun or a tool. Arab or Jewish names appeared on the monitor just before the picture.
On the first test, Arab-American high school students took longer to react when Jewish names were paired with "good" words than when they were paired with "bad" words. This difference was bigger when the Arab-American had watched more news about the violence in the middle-east. The same was true for Jewish-American high school students when they reacted to pairings of Arab names with good or bad words. These results mean that unconscious prejudice was greater within each group for those who watched more news about the violence in the Middle East.
On the Weapons Identification Task, both groups made more errors of falsely identifying a picture as a gun when the picture was preceded by a typical name from the other ethnic group. This result indicates that each ethnic group has an unconscious stereotype that the other group is "violent." Furthermore, the results show that this stereotype was strongest for Arab-American youth who watched more scenes of violence from the middle-east.
These results were consistent with the answers the teens gave to questions that asked them explicitly about how they felt about the other group, Dubow said. Both groups reported more positive views about their own group compared to the other ethnic group. Additionally, the relation between exposure to media depictions of violence perpetrated by Arabs and self-reported negative stereotypes about Arab-American teens was significant for Jewish-American youth. For Arab-American youth, negative stereotypes against Jewish-American teens were greater when their friends held negative stereotypes toward the other ethnic group.
Additional research is needed to identify the influences of other sources of exposure, such as discussions with parents, teachers and peers, the researchers said.
The study's other authors are Jeremy Ginges, New School of Social Research; Paul Boxer, Rutgers University; and Violet Souweidane, RCGD.
Established in 1948, the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR) is among the world's oldest academic survey research organizations, and a world leader in the development and application of social science methodology. ISR conducts some of the most widely-cited studies in the nation, including the Survey of Consumer Attitudes, the National Election Studies, the Monitoring the Future Study, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the Health and Retirement Study, and the National Survey of Black Americans. ISR researchers also collaborate with social scientists in more than 60 nations on the World Values Surveys and other projects, and the Institute has established formal ties with universities in Poland, China and South Africa. ISR is also home to the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), the world's largest computerized social science data archive. Visit the ISR web site at www.isr.umich.edu for more information.