MEL Notes – Insert Stereotypical Blog Name Here

Posted by on Mar 1, 2016 in MEL Notes Blog | 0 comments

This post is written in response to:

Ramasubramanian, S. (2010). Television viewing, racial attitudes, and policy preferences: Exploring the role of social identity and intergroup emotions in influencing support for affirmative action. Communication Monographs, 77(1), 102-120. doi: 10.1080/03637750903514300.

 Landon Hester is a first year masters student in the Manship School of Mass Communication. His research interest is in political communication.

There is no questioning that television is a dominant source for information that assists us in understanding others and ourselves. What we watch on television helps us define social standards and behavioral norms. It tells us who should be esteemed and who should be ridiculed. For better or for worse, television is a powerful information source that has the ability to shape the way we think and act.

Dr. Srividya Ramasubramanian, associate professor at Texas A&M University, has spent much of her professional career exploring media literacy, cultural diversity and media stereotyping. Her research focuses on how implicit/explicit stereotypes and counter-stereotypes in media shapes our perceptions of race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality.

According to Dr. Ramasubramanian, television tells us why power and status differences exist in our society. She believes that media messages legitimize our existing “status quo” by offering us explanations for why subordinating groups earn their societal position. Dr. Ramasubramanian states that television gives us a continual stream of racial stereotypes that reinforce our existing perceptions. With that, research shows that minorities, such African-Americans and Latino-Americans, are frequently marginalized, under-represented and stereotyped in mainstream media.

Dr. Ramasubramanian’s article in Communication Monographs explores how white viewers’ perceived portrayals of African-Americans and Latino-American on television impact their real-world perceptions of these outgroups, which also affect their support for race targeted policies.

She hypothesized that the greater the perceived negative portrayals of outgroups on television, the stronger the stereotypical beliefs about outgroups, the stronger the prejudicial feelings toward outgroups, and the weaker the support for affirmative action policies. I know that’s a tongue twister, so I have included Dr. Ramasubramanian’s general hypothesized model below:

 

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She studied this hypothesis through a self-administered, computer-based survey administered to 323 undergraduate participants. The survey questionnaire consisted of four main measures:

  1. Perceived portrayals of racial/ethnic groups on television
  2. Stereotypical beliefs
  3. Prejudicial feelings
  4. Policy support

Dr. Ramasubramanian’s experimental results confirmed her hypothesis. She found that as perceived negative television stereotypes increased:

  • Negative real-life stereotypical feelings increased
  • Hostility towards outgroups increased
  • Support for affirmative action policies decreased

Here is a visual representation of Dr. Ramasubramanian’s results:

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These results suggest that television plays a prominent role in influencing viewers’ racial attitudes and policy preferences.

My classmates and I thoroughly discussed this article during our class discussion on social roles and stereotyping. We came to an agreement that for future studies, we would like to see Dr. Ramasubramanian’s experiment replicated to test whites’ beliefs and attitudes towards other racial minorities. We believe that it would be fascinating to observe how other racial minorities rank in the context of this model.

During our class discussion, we had the opportunity to have a Skype session with Dr. Ramasubramanian to further discuss her research on television stereotypes and affirmative action. She conducted this research to show that even stereotypes observed in entertainment television can have an effect on people’s real-world (policy) decisions.

As we discussed the real-world implications of her research results, Dr. Ramasubramanian brought up the “model minority” stereotype. For those of you unfamiliar with this stereotype, it is the cultural expectation placed on Asian Americans, as whole, that each individual in that group is:

  • Hard-working
  • Smart (good at math, science and technology)
  • Docile
  • Wealthy

Though this stereotype may sound flattering, it is leading to increased mental health issues and negative self-perceptions among Asian Americans. According to the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center, Asian American college students are:

  • More likely to seek medical leave, more likely to go on academic probation, and are less likely to graduate in 4 years
  • More likely than white students to report difficulties with stress, sleep, and feelings of hopelessness, yet they were less likely to seek counseling
  • Experiencing the greatest rise in poverty among all groups

This is real-world evidence that even positive stereotypes against minorities can have a devastating impact on individuals within that group. Although the results presented in Dr. Ramasubramanian’s article may convey a negative outlook for our society, she is optimistic that we can change! She described the way for us to move forward in three easy steps:

  1. Have greater diversity in the stories presented in the mass media
  2. We must be critical consumers of the media
  3. We must critically analyze what we consume

I see this as a challenge for all of us to embrace and recognize diversity in the media we consume. Additionally, we must be critical consumers of the media we watch.

 

Get to know Dr. Ramasubramanian:

Visit her personal website

Watch her talk on YouTube

See her research

 

See more research by Dr. Ramasubramanian related to this topic:

Ramasubramanian, Srividya. “Testing the cognitive-affective consistency model of intercultural attitudes: Do stereotypical perceptions influence prejudicial feelings?.” Journal of Intercultural Communication Research 39.2 (2010): 105-121.

Ramasubramanian, Srividya. “The impact of stereotypical versus counterstereotypical media exemplars on racial attitudes, causal attributions, and support for affirmative action.” Communication Research (2011): 0093650210384854.

 

Further research on this topic:

Negrón-Muntaner, Frances. “The Latino media gap.” The Center for the study of ethnicity and race Columbia University. Retrieved from: http://www. columbia. edu/cu/cser/downloads/AdvancedExectutiveSummary. pdf (2014).

Punyanunt-Carter, Narissra M. “The perceived realism of African American portrayals on television.” The Howard Journal of Communications 19.3 (2008): 241-257.

Reid, Pamela T. “Racial stereotyping on television: A comparison of the behavior of both Black and White television characters.” Journal of Applied Psychology 64.5 (1979): 465.

Tan, Alexis, Yuki Fujioka, and Gerdean Tan. “Television use, stereotypes of African Americans and opinions on affirmative action: An affective model of policy reasoning.” Communications Monographs 67.4 (2000): 362-371.