Term of Award

Spring 2012

Degree Name

Master of Science in Experimental Psychology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Amy Hackney

Committee Member 1

Jeff Klibert

Committee Member 2

William McIntosh

Abstract

Previous research has shown that negative television news can lead to a reduction in positive affect (Harrell, 2000; Szabo & Hopkinson, 2007). What has yet to be investigated though is how negative television news influences an individual's interactions with others; precisely, how negative television news affects a person's empathy for persons in need and donation behaviors to help others. Participants were randomly assigned to four different conditions: local victim news condition, nonlocal victim news condition, far victim news condition, and a neutral media condition. Participants viewed media clips that corresponded with their condition and then filled out a questionnaire that examined implicit affect, empathy, and donation behavior. A series of models were conducted to analyze the data. A one-way between groups ANOVA showed that participants in the local victim news condition donated more money to a crime victim charity than participants in the nonlocal victim news condition, the far victim news condition, and the neutral media condition. The results of a MANOVA showed implicit positive affect, personal distress, and empathic concern to be significant process variables. These process variables were entered into the model as covariates with victim distance being the independent variable and donations being the dependent variable. The results suggested that personal distress may be mediating the relationship between local victim news and donations. One implication of this research that warrants further examination is the possibility that television news creates personal distress, ultimately precipitating an increase in donations to victims of crime.

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