Primetime: Using Priming Techniques to Increase Awareness of Gender and Racial Stereotypes in Media
 
Student researchers

Markus Furer, Talia Giuffrida, Roni Griguts, & Nicholas Norcia (BA Students).
This paper is based on a project from an undergraduate Media Effects course.

Faculty Supervisor

Corina Constantin

Introduction

Media prevalence in today’s society is unavoidable. Along with their ubiquity comes the risk of propagating or reinforcing stereotypes (Fujioka, 1999); thus, exposure to media could negatively impact people’s perceptions of minority groups. A possible way of dealing with this issue is increasing media consumers’ awareness of stereotypical depictions of minority groups in media.

research question

Controlling for race and gender, what is the relationship between priming techniques students’ perceptions of the media?

Method

This study investigated the effects of priming on people’s perceptions of the media. Participants (N=30) were split into 3 groups: one group was primed with educational video material describing racial stereotyping in media, another with educational video material related to gender stereotypes, and the control group with neither. Afterwards, all participants were asked to watch a video clip (Disney’s Oliver & Company). Finally, participants were asked to complete a paper-and-pencil questionnaire regarding their perceptions of gender, racial, and neutral issues expressed in the video clip.

Results

Those primed with either educational material found the video clip found the Oliver & Company clip significantly more ‘upsetting’ (partial eta squared = .28). Those primed with the ‘gendergender’ educational material were significantly more likely to think that the filmmakers of the filmmakers of Oliver & Company were males (partial eta squared = .24).

Males were more likely to consider the filmmakers of Oliver & Company to be females than females were (on a 7-point Likert scale, males’ mean = 3.37, females’ mean = 2.28). Although with males priming had no significant effect, females who watched the
‘gender’ educational material were less likely to assume that the filmmakers were females than those who watched the ‘race’ video. Those that watched the ‘gender’ educational material were significantly less likely to assume that the filmmakers of Oliver & Company werewhite than either the control group or those who watched the ‘race’ educational material clip. (partial eta squared = .51)

Females were significantly more likely than males to assume that the filmmakers were white, across all three conditions.
When asking whether participants felt the filmmakers were racial minorities or not, those who watched the gender educational material were more likely to disagree and female participants were more likely to disagree than males were.
Male and female participants in the ‘gender-primed’ condition considered the female characters considered Georgette and Rita significantly less well written than participants in either of the other two conditions.
Male and female participants in the ‘race-primed’ condition considered the Latino character Tito significantly less well written than participants in either of the other two conditions.

Conclusions

Through our study, we have found that priming techniques can significantly increase people’s awareness of media stereotyping.
We also found that women, in general, seem to be more aware of media stereotyping of both gender and race than men are.
When primed to focus on certain aspects of media, participants tended to ignore of media, participants tended to ignore other aspects.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at sss12@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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