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Encyclopedia > Hostile media effect

The hostile media effect, sometimes called the hostile media phenomenon, refers to the theory that ideological partisans often think that media coverage is biased against their particular interests in an issue. This phenomenon has been identified experimentally. In the scientific method, an experiment is a set of actions and observations, performed to support or falsify a hypothesis or research concerning phenomena. ...



In one study by Robert Vallone, Lee Ross and Mark Lepper, pro-Palestinian students and pro-Israeli students at Stanford University were shown the same news filmstrips pertaining to the then-recent Sabra and Shatila massacre of Muslim Palestinian refugees by Christian Lebanese in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War. On a number of objective measures, both sides found that these identical news clips were slanted in favor of the other side. Pro-Israeli students reported seeing more anti-Israel references and fewer favorable references to Israel in the news report and pro-Palestinian students reported seeing more anti-Palestinian references, and so on. Both sides said a neutral observer would have a more negative view of their side from viewing the clips, and that the media would have excused the other side where it blamed their side. Lee D. Ross is a professor of social psychology at Stanford University, who has studied attribution theory, attributional biases, decision making and conflict resolution. ... Mark R. Lepper (born December 5, 1944) is a professor of psychology at Stanford University, who has studied attribution theory and belief perseverance. ... The term Palestinian has other usages, for which see definitions of Palestinian. ... For other meanings of Stanford, see Stanford (disambiguation). ... 1982 Sabra and Shatila Massacre Conflict Lebanese Civil War Date 16 September 1982 Place Sabra and Shatila Refugee Camp Result Large civilian casualties Template:Campaignbox War of the Camps This page is related to the 1982 events only. ... Central Beirut (2004) Beirut (Arabic: , transliterated Bayrūt - the French name, Beyrouth, was also commonly used in English in the past) is the capital, largest city and chief seaport of Lebanon. ... The Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) had its origin in the conflicts and political compromises of Lebanons colonial period and was exacerbated by the nations changing demographic trends, Christian and Muslim inter-religious strife, and proximity to Syria and Israel. ...

It is important to note that the two sides were not asked questions about subjective generalizations about the media coverage as a whole, such as what might be expressed as "I thought that the news has been generally biased against this side of the issue." Instead, when viewing identical news clips, subjects differed along partisan lines on simple, objective criteria such as the number of references to a given subject. The research suggests the hostile media effect is not just a difference of opinion but a difference of perception.

This effect is interesting to psychologists because it appears to be a reversal of the otherwise pervasive effects of confirmation bias: in this area, people seem to pay more attention to information that contradicts rather than what supports their pre-existing views. A psychologist is a social scientist who studies psychology, the study of the human mind, thought and human behaviour. ... Confirmation bias is a tendency to search for information that confirms ones preconceptions. ...

Studies have found hostile media effects related to other political conflicts, including strife in Bosnia and in U.S. presidential elections. Bosnia and Herzegovina (officially Bosna i Hercegovina, shortened to BiH, also in English variously written Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Bosnia-Hercegovina) is a mountainous country in the western Balkans. ... United States presidential elections determine who serves as President and Vice President of the United States for four-year terms, starting on Inauguration Day (January 20th of the year after the election). ...

See also


Cognitive bias is any of a wide range of observer effects identified in cognitive science and social psychology including very basic statistical, social attribution, and memory errors that are common to all human beings. ... Self-serving bias occurs when people are more likely to claim responsibility for successes than failures. ... Selective perception may refer to any number of cognitive biases in psychology related to the way expectations affect perception. ... Cognitive bias is distortion in the way we perceive reality (see also cognitive distortion). ...


Media bias is a term used to describe a real or perceived bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media, in the selection of which events will be reported and how they are covered. ... Claims of Media bias in the United States attract constant attention. ... The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is being pursued not only in the cities, towns, and countryside of Israel and the occupied territories of West Bank and the Gaza Strip with bombs and bullets, it is also a media battle being waged on television and in newspapers and magazines. ... Claims of Media bias in South Asia attract constant attention. ...


  • Vallone, R. P., Ross, L., & Lepper, M. R. (1985). The hostile media phenomenon: Biased Perception and Perceptions of Media Bias in Coverage of the "Beirut Massacre". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 577-585. (summary here)
  • Dalton, R. J., Beck, P. A., & Huckfeldt, R. (1998). Partisan Cues and the Media: Information Flows in the 1992 Presidential Election. American Political Science Review, 92, 1, 111-26.
  • Matheson, K. & Dursun, S. (2001). Social identity precursors to the hostile media phenomenon: Partisan perceptions of coverage of the Bosnian conflict. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 4, 117-126.

External links

  • Ohio State: Think Political News Is Biased? Depends Who You Ask
  • Cancelling Each Other Out? Interest Group Perceptions of the News Media
  • Public Perceptions of Bias in the News Media: Taking A Closer Look at the Hostile Media Phenomenon (PDF)

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