MEL Notes: In-Group Bias and Comedy

Posted by on Feb 24, 2016 in MEL Notes Blog | 0 comments

This post is written in response to:

Banjo, O.O., Appiah, O. Wang, Z., Brown, C., Walther, W. O. (2015). Co-viewing effects of ethnic-oriented programming. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 92(3), 662- 680. doi: 10.1177/1077699015581804.

Lunden Chenevert is a first year masters student in the Manship School of Mass Communication. Her research interest focuses how means of communication, specifically social media, affects how people consume political information.

In “Co-Viewing Effects of Ethnic-Oriented Programming: An Examination if In-Group Bias and Racial Comedy Exposure,” researchers had black and white participants watch The Boondocks in a co-viewing setting with either in-group members or out-group members. After viewing the comedy program, participants were asked about: perceived similarity with the characters, identification with the characters, attitudes toward the show, feeling of excitement and absorption in the show. Researchers were looking to determine participant’s level of social identity. They wanted to know if the context in which the content is viewed had an affect on viewers.

The research conducted by Omotayo Banjo, Osei Appiah, Zheng Wang, Christopher Brown and Whitney Walther confirms that black television viewers find ethnic-oriented programming more rewarding than white viewers. They found that black participants conveyed more positive excitement, attitudes, and absorption than white participants. The viewing condition did not have affect with these dependent measures. The viewing condition did have an affect when measuring identification and perceived similarity with the characters. Black participants responded more positively when viewing with in-group members as compared to viewing with out-group members. Regardless of the dependent measure and viewing condition, white participants showed no significant results.

In a future study examining co-viewing effects with in-group and out-group members, I think it would be beneficial to have a control group that would view the program alone. Comparing the co-viewing condition to an along viewing condition could strengthen the findings. Another addition to a future study would be to include Latino Americans to the participant pool. Not only would it be interesting to see how they respond to Latino portrayals on television, but also to see how they respond to other minority group portrayals. Latino Americans are currently the largest and fastest growing minority group in the United States, but they are more underrepresented on television than African Americans.

While talking with Dr. Banjo during a video conference call with my classmates, the underrepresentation of Latino Americans was mentioned. She pointed out how the language barrier could be a major contributing factor. Dr. Banjo also told us about her time in India and how she conducted an impromptu poll among students. She asked if when they watched movies featuring black and white actors, who they felt more comfortable with. The majority of the students said they felt more comfortable with black actors. Although it was not statistically representative sample, Dr. Banjo believes this could suggest a possible connection or bond between different minority groups and how they are represented on television.

While politics was not explicitly mentioned in this study, the findings open the door for a new way to examine political messaging. Co-viewing effects among people of different political parties while listening to political speeches has yet to be studied, but the work of Dr. Banjo and her counterparts can serve as a guide for this type of research. I am curious to know how stereotyping and social identity come into play when people of opposing political parties are listening to the same political speech. As an aspiring political practitioner, knowing how voters are responding to a politician’s message is key to running a strong campaign or maintaining support among his or her electorate. Depending on the political makeup of the audience, speechwriters could tailor the talking points to be most effective increase audience enjoyment.

During our class discussion, Dr. Banjo mentioned that we can embrace disparaging identities. Of course she meant we can do this in a humorous way. She said humor is a great way to get a difficult point across and help people digest racial tension. Dr. Banjo is searching for a way in which stereotyping not only shows the difference between people, but how it can bring people together.


In light of recent reports in the media, which depicts young African American men as dangerous criminals, I find this image extremely compelling. Humor takes a form of irony in these photographs. Young Black men dressed in graduation caps and gowns, pose for a mugshot style picture. In their hand they hold a sign that spells out their “charge.” In this case, their charge is their college major.

In my opinion this image does exactly what Dr. Banjo said, it embraces a disparaging identity. It does it in a powerful way that catches your attention. EJ Brown created “The Mugshot Series” in attempt to reverse the stereotype of black men in the media. A photo campaign like this can make people reevaluate the unfavorable characteristics about different groups of people. It shows you there is more to people then just how they are portrayed on television.




Interview with EJ Brown:

Omotayo Banjo:

Osei Appiah:

Zheng Wang:

Christopher Brown:

Whitney Walther: