NEWS FRAMING AND ITS EFFECTS ON PERCEPTIONS OF ETHNIC GROUPS AND ETHNIC DIFFERENCES
Detenber, B. H., Chew, H. E. and Chan, Y. M., Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Journalists typically present public issues within particular story frames that reflect professional and cultural values (Gamson, 1992). Under certain circumstances news frames can influence perceptions of and memory for issues, events, and people presented in the news (Iyengar, 1991; McLeod & Detenber, 1999; Valkenburg, Semetko, & DeVreese, 1999). We conducted a between-subjects experiment to investigate whether two of the most commonly used news frames affected perceptions of different ethnic groups. In addition, the impact and potential interaction of ethnicity and independent and interdependent self-construal were assessed. Two hundred five undergraduates (105 Chinese and 100 Malays) read two different stories in a mocked-up newspaper page. Both stories had either a Human Interest or Conflict frame, and content was held as constant as possible across condition. Participants were then asked to evaluate the attitudes and behaviors of Chinese and Malay Singaporeans. We hypothesized that the Conflict frame would lead to greater disparity in the perceptions of the two groups. That is, those who read the stories with the Human Interest frame would tend to perceive the attitudes and behaviors of Malays and Chinese as being more similar than those who read the stories with the Conflict frame. Only one significant frame effect was found, but it was in the opposite direction of the hypothesis. No significant interactions were found, and on the whole the results do not provide support for framing effects theory. The findings are discussed in terms of political cognition, cultural values, and framing theory.