Effects of Media Literacy Training on Explicit and Implicit Racial Stereotypes
Student researchers:

Srividya Ramasubramanian

Faculty Supervisor:

Dr. Mary Beth Oliver


Through continual habitual exposure across genres and media types, media stereotypes become part of the symbolic dominant ideologies (Gerbner, 1998; Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, Signorielli, & Shanahan, 2002). Repeated exposure to stereotypical information makes them frequently and readily accessible (Banaji, Hardin, & Rothman, 1993; Bargh, 1994; Devine, 1989; Gilbert & Hixon, 1991; Lepore & Brown, 1997; Wittenbrink, Judd, & Park, 1997). However, not all viewers are likely to exhibit prejudicial responses to stereotypical media portrayals. Research on the control of automatic stereotyping shows that certain situational and motivational factors moderate racist responses (Blair, 2002; Dasgupta & Greenwald, 2001; Devine, 1989; Devine & Monteith, 1993; Fazio, Jackson, Dunton, & Williams, 1995; Kawakami, Dovidio, Moll, Hermsen, & Russin, 2000). For instance, past studies show that participants exposed to stereotype negation training and counter-stereotypical exemplars are less likely to express racial prejudice toward members of stigmatized racial groups (Dasgupta & Greenwald, 2001; Kawakami et al., 2000). This dissertation project explores whether media literacy training and exposure to counter-stereotypical news stories help decrease prejudicial responses at the implicit and explicit level.


H1: Participants in the media literacy training condition are less likely than those in the control condition to report prejudicial responses to news stories
H2: Participants who read counter-stereotypical stories are less likely as compared to those who read stereotypical stories to report prejudicial feelings
H3: Whereas hostile prejudice is more likely to be expressed toward African-Americans, benevolent prejudice is more likely to be expressed toward Asian-Indians


In the first pretest, 50 participants completed a free response task in which they indicated their knowledge about cultural stereotypes typically associated with African-Americans and Asian-Indians.

In the second pretest, 47 participants used 7-point Likert-type scales, ranging from 1 (not at all) to 7 (very well) to indicate the extent to which 40 traits generated in the first pretest were seen as typically associated with each of the racial groups.

In the third pretest, 68 students helped select two story-pairs for each racial group that displayed the greatest significant differences along stereotypical-counter stereotypical traits. Participants also noted their perceptions about the video stimuli.

The final experiment involved 196 Caucasian-American participant in a 2 (Type of Video: literacy or control) X 2 (Stereotypicality of News Story: stereotypical or counter-stereotypical) X 2 (Racial Group Depicted in Story: African-Americans or Asian-Indians) X 3 (Race of Target Group: African-Americans, Asian-Indians, or Caucasian-Americans) factorial experiment. Dependent variables were implicit and explicit racial attitudes. Implicit attitudes were measured using response latencies in a lexical decision task and using a word fragment completion task. Explicit racial attitudes were measured using feeling thermometers and likert-type rating scales indicating perceptions and feelings toward Asian-Indians, African-Americans, and Caucasian-Americans.


In terms of implicit racism, amongst participants who read counter-stereotypical stories about African-Americans, those in the literacy video (M = 634.56, SE = 1.04) were significantly slower than those in the control video (M = 561.52, SE = 1.04) in recognizing benevolent stereotypical word-stimuli; F (1, 150) = 4.73, p ≤ .05, partial η2 = .03. Amongst participants who read counter-stereotypical stories about African-Americans, those in the literacy video condition (M = 678.23, SE = 1.04) were slightly slower in recognizing hostile stereotypical word-stimuli as compared to those in the control video condition (M = 613.41, SE = 1.04); F (1, 150) = 2.88, p ≤ .10, partial η2 = .02. In the word fragment completion task, contrary to expectations, participants who saw the literacy video (M = .62, SE = .01) were slightly more likely to fill out stereotypical words as compared to those who saw the control video (M = .65, SE = .01).

In terms of explicit racial attitudes, participants who read news stories depicting Asian-Indians, those who saw the literacy video (M = 2.44, SE =. 20) were significantly more likely than those who saw the control video (M = 1.97, SE =. 19) to report greater hostility towards African-Americans. Also, respondents who read counter-stereotypical news stories (M = 2.21, SE = .16) were significantly less likely than those who read stereotypical news stories (M = 2.82, SE = .17) to report feelings of benevolence towards Asian-Indians. Participants who read news stories depicting Asian-Indians, those who saw the literacy video (M = 61.87, SE = 2.90) reported significantly less favorable feelings towards African-Americans as compared to those who saw the control video (M = 71.25, SE = 2.89).


A combination of media-based strategies to reduce accessibility of racial stereotypes might be more powerful than using media literacy training or exposure to counter-stereotypical media exemplars independently. It is possible for media literacy training to have a boomerang effect such that it activates prejudicial feelings even though it is intended to suppress such feelings.


Link to researcher's personal website:

For more details regarding the study contact,

Dr. Mary Beth Oliver by e-mail at mbo@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 863 5552

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Media Effects Research Lab at College of Communications, Penn State University