Date of Graduation

5-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Journalism (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Journalism

Advisor

Patsy Watkins

Committee Member

Bret Schulte

Second Committee Member

Ignatius Fosu

Third Committee Member

Jee Chung

Keywords

Aggression, Echo Chamber, News, Priming, Priming Theory, Social Media

Abstract

This thesis is aimed at better understanding the role of media priming in biases and aggression while using social media platforms to consume news. Priming theory holds that exposure to media can have short-term impacts on people’s subsequent behaviors or judgments. (Roskos-Ewoldsen et al., 2009)

Research in priming theory has shown that there are primes for aggressive behavior, the information and criteria we use in making judgments of the president, and various stereotypes. (Chang and Hitchon, 2004; Dixon and Maddox, 2005; Josephson, 1987; Valentino, 1999; )

This study will discuss the ways in which biases and aggression can be more easily primed online, and will endeavor to show that the presentation style of social media platforms may prime viewers to biases regarding news before they even begin reading it.

A survey was administered asking subjects about their social media habits, which allows me to present a more complete picture of where importance is placed in online interactions surrounding news. The research reveals that subjects may be primed to place more importance on the original poster, or sharer, as opposed to the source of news. It also confirmed some previous findings regarding the prevalence of aggression in online discussions of news. Finally, this research attempts to draw a correlation between the number of times someone sees a news article posted to social media, and the ways in which that affects their perception of the piece’s importance.

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