TV, DIRECT CONTACT, AND STEREOTYPES
Television Portrayals and African American Stereotypes:
Examination of Television Effects
When Direct Contact is Lacking
Edward R. Murrow School of Communication
Washington State University
Pullman, WA 99614-2520
e-Mail: [log in to unmask]
Manuscript submitted to the Communication Theory and Methodology Division of the
Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication for 1997
Presentation, Chicago, IL
RUNNING HEAD : TV, DIRECT CONTACT, AND STEREOTYPES Television Portrayals and
African American Stereotypes:
Examination of Television Effects When Direct Contact is Lacking
A self-administered survey questionnaire distributed to Japanese international
(n = 83) and White (n = 166) students measured stereotypes of African Americans
and vicarious contact (television) variables. Results supported process-oriented
learning model of behavior, but not cumulative model of cultivation. The study
demonstrated that the media could affect one's impression of other races, and
further suggested that effects of mass media are more significant when direct
information is limited. Implications of an influential role of television in
stereotype formation were also discussed.
Television Portrayals and African American Stereotypes: Examination of
Television Effects When Direct Contact is Lacking
Television has been considered an influential source of information that plays
a role in constructing viewers' social reality (Hawking & Pingree, 1982;
Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, & Signorielli, 1986; Shapiro & Lang, 1991). Since
television conveys "simulations of everyday situations" (Daves & Abelman, 1983,
p. 261) and since it shares similar characteristics of real life events (e.g.,
sound and sight), vicarious experience via television may become a part of our
social experience (Shapiro & Lang, 1991) and serve as a basis for social
judgement such as racial attitudes (Armstrong, Neuendorf, & Brentar, 1992;
Matabane, 1988) and ethnic stereotypes (Tan & Fujioka, 1995).
Research needs to address the utility and significance of mediated information
relative to the firsthand (direct) information when people make a social
judgement (Shapiro & Lang, 1991; Shapiro & McDonald, 1992; Sigelman & Welch,
1994). Shapiro and McDonald (1992), for example, stated that mediated
information is more likely to exert influence on those people who have had
little or no direct contact with objects because they are lacking in a
sufficient method of evaluating information. Armstrong, Neuendorf and Brentar
(1992) also reported that media exposure affected White college students' racial
attitudes, particularly for those who had little direct interracial contact.
Research has suggested that people tend to have frequent contact with their own
group members (ingroup) but have less contact with outgroup members (e.g.,
Linville, 1982). In addition, due to the disproportion of population between
majority (White Anglo) and minority groups (e.g., African Americans), majority
group (White Anglo) members tend to have more opportunities to interact with a
certain minority group (e.g., African American) members than other minority
(e.g., Asian American or Hispanics) groups do interact with African Americans
(Blau, 1977; Ellison & Powers, 1994). In other words, interracial contact
between members of majority (White) and minority (African American) groups
occurs more frequently than such contact between members from the two different
minority groups (e.g., African Americans and Asian Americans).
If this is true, then, it is reasonable to assume that international students
as a temporarily minority group possess less personal contact with African
Americans compared to White (Anglo) students (majority group). This study, then,
will examine effects of vicarious contact via television and movies on
stereotypes of African Americans among two purposive college samples, White and
Japanese international students. This case study tests the key hypothesis that
less contact a group has with African Americans, the more television will
influence their perceptions of African Americans.
Stereotypes are defined as "cognitive structures that contain the perceiver's
knowledge, beliefs, and expectancies about some human group" (Hamilton &
Trolier, 1986, p.133). Once categorized as a member of a certain group, an
individual is expected to possess the same characteristics (stereotypes) of that
group and is evaluated on the basis of category-based attributes (Hamilton &
Trolier, 1986; Fiske & Neuberg, 1990; Fiske & Taylor, 1991). Therefore,
stereotypes are a set of beliefs about group characteristics or attributes
African American stereotypes vs Whites' in general
Recent nationwide opinion polls (1991) on ethnic images in the U.S. revealed
that of all other ethnic groups (African Americans, Hispanics and Asian
Americans) Whites received the most positive (highest) scores in all traits
measured (work ethics, wealth, dependency, violence, intelligence and
patriotism) (Smith, 1991). African Americans obtained lower evaluations, ranking
last in the three traits (violence, lazy and dependence); and next to the last
in the wealth and the intelligence trait (Smith, 1991). Another opinion poll by
Gallop (1993) also reported that more than one third (37%) of both African
American and White adults views blacks as "more likely" than other ethnic groups
to commit crimes.
Niemann, Jennings, Rozelle, Baxter and Sullivan (1994) used a free response
method and examined the stereotypes of ethnic groups held by college students.
Adjectives which were most frequently used for descriptions of African Americans
(both male and female) were speak loudly, antagonistic, athletic and dark skin;
while, White (Anglo) Americans were described as intelligent, egotistical and
pleasant (Neimann et al., 1994).
Ethnic stereotypes may be developed and learned culturally (e.g., Allport,
1954), they can, however, change through individual experience such as personal
contact with stereotyped group members (e.g., Desforges, Lord, Ramsey, Manson,
Van Leeuwen, West, & Lepper, 1991). Such assumption has been suggested by the
Direct contact and racial attitudes : Contact hypothesis
The contact hypothesis (Allport, 1954; Cook, 1985) predicts that positive
personal contact produce a favorable change in racial attitudes and promotes
interracial respect and liking. The basic assumption is that favorable
interracial contact provides people with great opportunities to observe and
learn about other group members, which reduce interracial anxiety, assumed
dissimilarity and ethnocentric-based (negative) stereotypes (Stephan & Stephan,
1984). Successful interactions that may produce a favorable outcome of contact
are characterized as follows: equal status between the interactors, cooperative,
not competitive interaction, pursuit for a mutual goal, intimate rather than
casual contact and normative support from authority (Brewer & Miller, 1984;
Cook, 1985, Desforges, et al., 1991; Hewstone & Browns, 1986).
Contact hypothesis has been generally supported in experimental settings, but
has produced mixed findings in real life situations. Researchers have attributed
these results to socioeconomic factors (Jackman & Crane, 1986) and/or
disproportion of population between majority and minority groups (Ellison &
Powers, 1994), which may cause a threat to a positive interracial contact.
Sigelman and Welch (1993) also speculated a role of mass media in development of
racial attitudes, particularly, when personal contact is limited. As a result,
this study examines the relationship between vicarious contact and stereotypes
of African Americans held by Japanese international and White college students
to determine whether influence of media is more significant on Japanese than
that on Whites due to Japanese lack of personal contact with African Americans.
Vicarious contact and stereotypes
This study assumes that besides direct contact, vicarious contact (through
television and movies) with African Americans affects respondents' perceptions
of African Americans. The study generally follows the basic assumption of
contact hypothesis which predicts a favorable consequence of interracial
contact. It further assumes that vicarious contact is more influential for the
Japanese international students than White students due to Japanese lack of
direct contact with African Americans. The study is grounded on the following
theories and concepts.
Cultivation theory predicts the contribution of television to viewer's
construction of social reality (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, & Signorielli, 1986). It
assumes that messages of television are accumulatively internalized by viewers
as a result of massive exposure (frequency of television viewing) to
television's repetitive and uniform messages (Gerbner et al., 1986).
The cultivation research originally considered television messages uniform
(e.g., commercially-oriented) across programs and identified television viewing
as a ritualistic or non-selective activity (Gerbner & Gross, 1976). Recent
research, however, has looked at the relationship between television viewing and
viewers' beliefs about the real world by taking a specific content (e.g.,
program genres such as soap operas) into account (e.g., Howkins & Pingree, 1981;
Perse, 1986; Potter & Chang, 1990) and reported a stronger correlation between
exposure to specific content of television and viewer's beliefs about that
specific content. From the cultivation perspective, repetitive exposure to
television portrayals of African Americans may lead to viewers' acceptance of
these messages. How and what has been portrayed about African Americans via
entertainment television and movies will be discussed below.
African Americans in entertainment television programs and movies
MacDonald's (1992) study on portrayals of African Americans in television
reported that African Americans were mostly cast as comedians in the 1970's, in
which they were portrayed as working or lower-middle class blacks. However, the
presentation of blacks has been improved and increasingly visible since the
early 1980's (MacDonald, 1992). Currently African Americans appear frequently in
primetime entertainment television programs (Gray, 1989), and play various roles
including black professional and middle-class (Matabane, 1988; Gray, 1989).
Although under-class African Americans appear as a source of social problems
(e.g., urban crime) in news account (Gray, 1989), in entertainment programs,
particularly in primetime, African Americans have been portrayed as charming and
attractive individuals who achieve their success through self-efforts such as
hard work, discipline and determination (Gray, 1989).
Cultivation of these relatively positive portrayals of African American in
entertainment context was supported by some empirical studies. Matabane (1988),
for example, reported the positive relationship between frequent television
viewing and Afro-Americans' favorable views about racial environment. Frequent
television viewers of Afro-Americans compared to non-frequent viewers reported
that racial integration was more prevalent, White and African Americans were
more similar and more African Americans were middle-class (Matabane, 1988).
Armstrong et al (1992) also found the positive relationship between consuming
entertainment content of television and White students' views of African
Americans as socio-economically "better-off". Given positive portrayals of
African Americans in entertainment television programs (MacDonald, 1992;
Matabane, 1988), frequent television viewing may cultivate favorable stereotypes
of African Americans among the Japanese international and White Anglo college
In contrast to the cumulative (quantity) emphasis of cultivation theory, social
cognitive theory stresses cognitive processes of television viewing, which is
Social cognitive theory
The social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1977, 1986) can provide this study with
a theoretical explanation of how people learn information through symbolic
presentation of television. The social cognitive theory assumes that vicarious
learning via television takes place through a series of cognitive processes
including attention, retention, motor reproduction and motivation. According to
Bandura (1977), behaviors and information that are repeated, perceived as real,
distinct, functional and salient are more likely to be attended to, thus, more
likely to be learned. When observing an event which receives some kind of
rewards (e.g., social approval or not being punished) and when the observer
feels confident to perform/learn, then symbolic learning is facilitated
It must be noted that the social cognitive theory places much weight on
observer's cognitive activities when consuming television messages. It suggests
that one's evaluations and interpretations (positive or negative) of television
messages affect consequences of television viewing (Bandura, 1986; Tan, 1986).
Television messages, thus, must be cognitively processed (evaluated and
interpreted) by viewers before any influence occurs. From this viewpoint, what
viewers actually see about African Americans on television and how they
interpret (e.g., pleasant or unpleasant) that information, rather than
television viewing per se, have a significance in forming stereotypes of African
Instrumental learning theories
The study basically examines the contact hypothesis in a vicarious context. The
basic assumption of the contact hypothesis is that positive contact promotes
favorable racial attitudes; while, lack of such contact or negative contact
creates unfavorable attitudes toward other race groups (Allport, 1954; Amir,
1967). This contention is theoretically supported by an instrumental learning
theories (e.g., Homans, 1954) which suggested that people behave in a way that
they may maximize rewards (e. g., pleasant experience) and avoid punishment
(e.g., unpleasant experience). In a human interaction, people like a person who
provides them with favorable experience; while dislike a person who gives an
unpleasant experience (Berscheid & Walster, 1969). The social cognitive and
instrumental leaning theories, thus, suggest that vicarious contact with African
Americans (television portrayals) which is evaluated by viewers as positive or
favorable leads to positive stereotypes of African Americans and unfavorable
vicarious contact (negative self-evaluation of television portrayals) results in
The current study not only examines the effects of vicarious contact on
stereotypes but also tests the different influence of television for the
Japanese international college students than that for White Anglo college
Perceived reality about television portrayals
Many have suggested that viewers' perceived reality about television messages
mediate acceptance of television content (Hawkins & Pingree, 1980; Perse, 1986;
Potter, 1986; Rubin, Perse, & Taylor, 1988). In general, the more the messages
of television are perceived as real or accurate, the stronger the influence
(Rubin, Perse, & Taylor, 1985).
According to Potter (1986), there are at least three components of perceived
reality: 1) magic window - beliefs about television as a representation of the
real world; 2) Instruction - perceived applicability of television presentation
to viewers' own real life; and 3) identity - perceived similarity between
television characters (or situations) and viewer. Although people differ in
their level of perceived reality (Potter, 1988), the following characteristics
make a real-fiction distinction more difficult: 1) lacking in cognitive skills
(Potter, 1988); 2) lacking in direct experience with an event (Shapiro & Lang,
1991); and 3) some personalities such as loneliness (Rubin et al., 1985). In
general, those individuals who are considered more susceptible to television
messages are children, adolescents, new comers to the country such as
immigrants, and foreign audience due to their lack of appropriate method of
evaluating mediated information (e.g., Zohoori, 1988) or motivational factor
such as information seeking (Chaffe, Nass, & Yang; 1990; Tan, Nelson, Dong, &
Tan, 1996). Considering that international students may possess little direct
interaction (lack of direct experience) with African Americans, Japanese
international students may also fit in this category.
Information accessibility and stereotyping
The assumption that the stronger influence of television on stereotyping for
the Japanese international students than that for White Anglo students may also
be supported by the concept of accessibility in cognition and memory. Basic
assumption is that people tend to use heuristics or cognitive shortcuts which
allow them to reduce elaborate problem solving to more economical judgmental
operations (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974). According to Wyer and Srull (1989), when
forming impressions of others, we search our memory heuristically, that is, we
seek and use information which is the most accessible (easily retrieved) and
save extra cognitive efforts (e.g., further search) unless it is required.
Information that is activated recently and/or retrieved frequently is considered
highly accessible (Fiske & Taylor, 1992) since it is placed/stored close to the
top of our memory bin (Wyer & Srull, 1989).
Recalling that African Americans appear relatively frequently in television and
movies (e.g., MacDonald, 1992), information conveyed through television must be
highly available to the Japanese international students. Moreover, due to the
limited personal interaction with African Americans, the Japanese students may
compensate for their lack of firsthand information about African Americans by
relying on television portrayals when making social judgements about African
Americans. The more frequently the television information is used, the more
accessible the television information will be. This can also be applied to white
students. In fact, Shrum and O'Guinn (1993) suggested that greater frequency and
more recency of television viewing may make television messages more accessible.
Considering, however, that international students have less direct contact with
African Americans, (firsthand information is hardly be recent nor frequent),
this study predicts stronger media influence on Japanese students than on white
Hypotheses and hypothesized model
The current study tests the following hypotheses to examine the effects of
vicarious contact on stereotypes of African Americans among Japanese and White
college students. The proposed model (Figure 1) reflects two theoretical
approaches to predict television effects on stereotyping, cultivation route
(television viewing to stereotyping) and social cognitive route (television
viewing to valenced evaluation of television messages to stereotyping).
H-1. The greater the number of TV programs/movies (including as
one of the main characters African Americans) viewed by
respondents, the more positive the stereotypes.
Hypothesis 1 tests the cultivation function of television. Since African
Americans are positively portrayed in entertainment television programs,
frequent exposure to that content leads to positive stereotypes.
H-2. The greater the number of positive portrayals (attributes)
perceived in television the more positive the stereotypes.
H-3. The greater the number of negative portrayals (attributes)
perceived in television, the more negative the stereotypes.
Hypotheses 2 and 3 are derived from social cognitive and instrumental learning
theories of stereotyping, which suggest that positive or rewarding interaction
induces positive outcomes of contact; unfavorable interaction, on the other
hand, leads to negative consequences.
H-4. The effects of vicarious contact (TV/movies) on stereotypes of African
Americans are stronger for Japanese international students than those for White
Hypothesis 4 tests the significant influence of television when direct
information is limited. This is derived from the concept of accessibility in
cognition and memory which suggests that people tend to seek memory and use
information that is the most accessible (easily to retrieve) to form their own
judgements (Wyer & Srull, 1989).
A self-administered survey questionnaire was distributed to 83 Japanese
international college students (44.6% male; 55.4% female; 18.1% Intensive
American Language Center students) and 166 White (Anglo) students (43.4% male;
56.6% female) who were enrolled in an introductory mass communication class at a
public university in the Northwest. Japanese sample was used because they met
the key requirement, limited direct contact with African Americans and because
they are one of the largest minority groups on campus. Average age of the
Japanese respondents was 23.5 years and that of the White respondents was 19.6
years. White students outnumbered Japanese students due to the difference in
population on campus. College samples, although not a representative of
population, were used due to their relative homogeneity in demographic
characteristics, which allowed the study to clarify television effects better.
The survey questionnaire measured the following dependent and independent
Dependent variable - Stereotypes
Stereotypes are measured by respondents' description of a African Americans. A
set of 14 pairs of contrasting adjectives were provided with a 7 point semantic
differential scale. The adjectives used were based on Smith's (1991) national
survey on racial image. These attributes include wealth (rich/poor), work ethic
(hard working/lazy), violence (not/violence-prone), intelligence
(un/intelligent), dependency (prefer to self-supporting/live off welfare), and
patriotism (un/patriotic). Some attributes (crime, trust, family ties,
education, drug/alcohol use, and racial tolerance) were added in a graduate
seminar on intercultural communication to obtain better images of race groups in
the U.S. today. The positive and negative ends of each bipolar items were
determined by consensus among seminar participants (Table 1). Decisions were
made on the basis of the criterion, which indicates the positive attribute in
the United States today. Reversed coding was employed so that positive and
negative ends were consistent for each set of adjectives. The data were factor
analyzed separately by group (Japanese and White) to yield final stereotype
measures for each.
Independent variables - Vicarious (TV) contact
Vicarious contact (media) measures include:
1) Frequency of television/movies viewing was measured by asking respondents to
list television entertainment programs and movies they have seen recently, that
included as one of the main characters African Americans. The number of
responses (TV programs and movies) listed was used for one of the predictor
variables. The use of content specific measure reflects the current contention
over the utility of global (total TV viewing) measure to examine media influence
(e. g., Potter, 1993). This question also served as a priming question which
attempted to differentiate respondent's stereotype beliefs about African
Americans (which were measured at the very beginning of the questionnaire) from
the portrayals of African Americans perceived in television/movies (which were
measured immediately after this question).
2) Descriptions or evaluations of TV/movie portrayals of African Americans were
measured by asking respondents to first provide adjectives/portrayals for
African Americans that stand out for respondents, and then to indicate a meaning
of each response by writing either "+" (positive), "-" (negative) or "0"
(neutral). Each response was coded on the basis of respondent's self-evaluation
and calculated to yield two affective evaluation variables, the number of
perceived negative and perceived positive television portrayals.
This procedure is adapted from free response methods of examining stereotypes,
which is said to induce more schematic responses from respondents (Devine &
Baker, 1991; Niemann, Jennings, Rozelle, Baxter, & Sullivan, 1994).
Self-description and self-evaluation processes were employed to reduce
undesirable measurement errors (e.g., researcher's bias) and obtain relatively
accurate data about what respondents actually received and interpret from
televisions and movies. Examples of self-evaluation of African American
television portrayals were shown in Table 1.
Direct contact and perceived reality
Personal contact with African Americans was measured by asking how often
respondents have contact with African Americans (a five point scale; 5 = very
often...1 = no contact) formally (in class/at work) and socially (outside the
class/work). Perceived reality about television was measured by asking how
realistically television presents life in general (1-5 point likert scale; 5 =
very realistically). Besides these variables, demographic information such as
sex, year in school and the length of the stay in the U.S. (only for Japanese
sample) was also gathered for use as control variables.
Personal and Vicarious Contact
One of the assumptions of this study was that international Japanese students
possess less personal contact with African Americans compared to that of White
college students. The study confirmed this assumption via student's t-test as
Personal contact with African Americans reported by the Japanese students was
significantly lower than that of White students in both formal (M = 2.13; SD
=.98 for Japanese; M =3.27; SD = 1.01 for White; 5 = very often; T =8.3; p
=.000) and social (M = 2.03; SD = 1.05 for Japanese; M = 3.10; SD = 1.19 for
White; T = 6.9; p =.000) context. These results indicated that Japanese students
seldom interacted with African Americans formally or socially; while, White
students had frequent contact with them.
In addition, the number of television programs and movies (including African
Americans) seen by the Japanese (M = 1.35; SD = 1.49) was substantially fewer
than that of White students (M = 2.19; SD = 1.61; T = 3.85; p =.0000). This was
also true when comparing the average of positive attributes seen (M = 1.21; SD =
1.50 for Japanese; M = 1.91; SD = 1.45 for White; T = 3.49; p = .0007) and
negative attributes (M = 0.78; SD = 1.18 for Japanese; M = 1.33; SD = 1.43 for
White; T = 3.22; p = .001). These results clearly indicate that Japanese
respondents had fewer opportunities than did White respondents to observe and
learn about African Americans.
Although both Japanese (M = 2.8; SD = .87) and White students (M = 2.5; SD =
.75; 5 = very realistically) do not think that television portrays life too
realistically, the Japanese international students' scores for perceived realism
was significantly higher (T = 2.4; P = .01; TV as more realistic) than that for
Stereotypes of African Americans
Table 2 indicated that although overall ratings of stereotypes of African
Americans obtained from both Japanese (M = 3.4; SD = .5) and White (M = 3.8; SD
= .7; 7 = the most positive; 4 = midpoint) respondents were negative, Japanese
overall ratings were significantly lower (negative) than those of Whites (T =
4.54; p =.0000). Japanese respondents rated African Americans substantially
lower than Whites in the following traits: rich (+), hard working (+),
intelligence (+), trust (+), drug dealing (-), and educated (+). These results
basically confirm the predicted direction of the contact hypothesis, lack of
contact leads to negative evaluations.
As Table 3 shows, for the Japanese sample, four stereotype factors emerged by
using a Verimax factor rotation method. These factors include Violence (violence
prone, drug use, alcohol abuse, and drug dealing; Cronbach alpha = .77); Trust
(trust, crime and hard wording; Cronbach alpha = .66), Rich (intelligence, rich,
patriotism, and education; Cronbach alpha = .61) and Family ties (welfare,
tolerance and family ties Cronbach alpha = -.21). The forth factor was
identified as unreliable, thus, excluded from the further analysis.
For the White sample (Table 4), three stereotype factors included Violence
(drug dealing, crime, violence prone, and alcohol abuse; Cronbach alpha = .81);
Trust (intelligence, hard working, trust, tolerance, patriotism and self
reliance; Cronbach alpha = .77) and Rich (rich, education, family ties and drug
use; Cronbach alpha = .41).
Goodness of Fit Test
The study tested hypothesized models and hypotheses by using structural
equation analysis. The hypothesized model was evaluated on the basis of
Chi-square goodness of fit test. Non significant Chi-square indicates a "good
fit" of data to the model. The study also used two ad-hoc tests, the Wald test
for evaluating nonsignificant parameters and the Lagrange Multiple test for
adding parameters to the model (Bentler, 1993).
In evaluating each model, demographic variables such as sex (1 = male; -1 =
female) and year in school (1 = freshman ..5= graduate students for White
sample; 1= IALC student 2 = freshman..6 = graduate student for Japanese sample)
were entered in an equation. The length of the stay in the U.S. (U.S. Time : 1 =
less than 1 year; 2 = 1 year to 2 years and 11 months; 3 = 3 years to 4 years
and 11 months; and 4 = 5 years and more) was also included when analyzing
As figure 2-7 show, as indicated by non significant Chi-square, all of the
models were evaluated as a good model (data fit the model) for each of the
stereotype factors across samples.
Japanese sample : Hypothesis 1-3
Hypothesis 1 predicted a positive relationship between the frequency of
vicarious contact (the number of TV/movie programs seen) and stereotypes. The
study (Figure 2-4) did not find any indication to support that assumption, as
indicated by non significant paths from Number of television program to
stereotype factors. H-1, thus, cannot be accepted.
Hypothesis 2 tested the effect of perceived positive TV portrayals on
stereotypes. Figure 2 and 3 showed partial support in the trust (B =.37; p <.01)
and rich (B = .27; p < .05) factors. The results of the positive path
coefficient mean that the greater the number of positive attributes respondents
perceived in television, the more positive the stereotype, which agrees with the
hypothesized direction. However, perceiving positive TV attributes did not
affect Violence factor. H-2 is partially supported with these findings.
Hypothesis 3 predicted negative relationships between the number of perceived
negative TV portrayals and stereotypes. As indicated by non significant paths
from perceived negative TV attributes to stereotype factors, the result did not
support this prediction. H-3 was not accepted.
White Sample: Hypothesis 1-3
Final models were shown in Figure 5-7. Neither the number of television
programs/movie programs seen nor the number of positive attributes perceived in
television affected respondents' stereotypes, as indicated by non significant
paths from these two television variables to stereotype factors. Hypothesis 1
and 2 were not accepted with these results.
The number of negative TV portrayals, however, produced partial support for
Hypothesis 3 with significant path to results to Violence (B = -.17; p < .05)
and Trust (B = -.19; p < .05) factors. The results of the significant negative
paths means that the greater the number of negative attributes perceived in
television, the more negative the stereotypes, which is consistent with the
hypothesis. Since the perceived negative TV portrayal variable failed to produce
significant influence, H-3 was partially supported.
Hypothesis 4 - Constraint analysis
Hypothesis 4 predicted stronger effects of vicarious contact on Japanese
students (stereotypes) compared to those effects on White students. Hypothesis 4
was evaluated with a constraint analysis which tested the null hypothesis of the
equality of some parameters (paths) across populations (Bentler, 1993).
Significant Chi-square indicates that the two paths are not the same in
magnitude. Model comparisons were made between similar constructs (e.g.,
Japanese Violence vs. White's Violence factor) .
Table 5 showed two significant results created by the number of perceived
positive TV portrayals in Trust (X2 = 5.66; p =.02) and Rich (X2 = 5.34; p =.02)
factors. These results indicate that the path coefficient of the perceived
positive portrayals between the two groups was not the same or significantly
different. In the two significant instances, the strength of the path
coefficient was greater for the Japanese sample (e.g., B =.37; p <.01 for the
trust factor) than that for the White sample (B =-.031; not significant),
consistent with the hypothesis. The perceived positive TV portrayals exerted
more substantial influence on Japanese respondents' views of African Americans
than that on Whites'. Since no significant difference was found in the other two
media variables (the number of TV/movies seen and the perceived negative TV
portrayals) between the two groups, as indicated by non significant Chi-square,
H-4 was partially accepted.
Discussion and Conclusion
This study clearly suggested that respondents' evaluations (positive or
negative) of television portrayals, not the number of television programs/movies
seen, significantly affected stereotypes of African Americans. Exposure to
television portrayals itself did not directly affect respondents' perceptions
across samples. Learning theories, thus, seem to be more efficient than
cumulative assumptions suggested by the Cultivation theory when explaining the
relationships between the vicarious contact and stereotypes.
The study provided some evidence that television messages had significant
impact on viewers' perception when firsthand information is lacking. The number
of perceived positive TV attributes of African Americans not only significantly
induced Japanese international students' positive views of African Americans but
also substantially differently affected Japanese perceptions than that of White
students. Considering the fact that the Japanese students had significantly less
vicarious contact (number of television programs seen as well as the number of
perceived negative/positive attributes) than White students, these findings are
It must be noted that although frequency of vicarious contact
(television/movie viewing) did not directly affect respondents' formation of
stereotypes, it did exert indirect influence through affective evaluation
(positive route for Japanese; negative route for Whites) variables. For example,
the result indicating the strong path coefficient (B = .54; p < .001 for
Japanese sample) from the number of television programs and movies seen to
perceived positive television portrayals suggested the indirect effects of the
frequency of television viewing on stereotypes (trust and rich factors) via the
variable of perceived positive television portrayals.
The results indicating no significant influence of the perceived negative
TV portrayals on the Japanese respondents' stereotypes may reflect the
relatively low number of negative TV attributes of African Americans (M = .78;
SD = 1.18) reported by Japanese respondents. Moreover, since Japanese
respondents' ratings of stereotypes of African Americans were considerably low
in average, a "flooring effect" may be operating. These low ratings reduce the
amount of variation in the variable. Therefore, it is more difficult to assess a
hypothesis which predicts negative effects (changes in a negative direction;
lower in rating scores) with subjects who possess very low ratings (Vogt, 1993)
such as the Japanese respondents in this study.
The study found that perceived negative portrayals affected White students'
stereotypes, but not perceived positive portrayals did. This can be explained by
the negativity effect which refers to the fact that unlikable or negative
information receives more weight when observers forming an impression of actors
(Fiske, 1980; Hamilton & Zanna, 1972; Reeder, & Coovert, 1986). In addition,
negative messages arouse people more than positive messages (Lang, Dhillon &
Dong, 1995). Although students can remember both valenced television portrayals,
negative portrayals induced strong unpleasant emotional state, which affect
their evaluation of African Americans. Perceived negative portrayals of African
Americans were, thus, significantly related to respondents' stereotypes.
The result that significant positive views of African Americans were held by
White female respondents (B = .32; p < .001; 1 = male; -1 = female) on rich
traits must reflect the fact that females have more formal contact (M = 3.41; SD
= 1.00; 5 = very frequently) with African Americans than male respondents (M =
3.08; SD = 1.02; T = - 2.10; p = .04) and that formal contact has positive
relationship with the rich factor (r = .18; p = .02). Since rich traits (rich,
education, and family ties) are observed easily than other personal traits,
formal contact might affect their perceptions.
The study had some limitations such as small sample size and possible
measurement errors. It mainly focused on TV entertainment programs and movies,
yet other genres (e.g., news) also need to be considered to further
understanding of the role of vicarious contact in formation of stereotypes.
Also, the study only used Japanese international students. Future research
should include a replication of the study in different populations to verify the
significant role of media in forming an impression of others when one's
firsthand information (direct contact) is limited. This can be done by comparing
media effects between the two samples (as was done in this study) or within a
sample based on the level of direct encounter with a certain group.
Some practical implications suggested by this study include the utility of mass
media in stereotypes reduction. The results indicated the considerably negative
stereotypes of African Americans held by Japanese international students. The
study, however, found the perceived positive portrayals of African Americans
effective in reducing such negativity. In fact, stereotype literature suggested
that it is more effective to reduce stereotype when stereotype-discrepant
information is displayed across many stereotyped members (e.g., a variety of
positive African American models on TV) than when it is concentrated in a few
stereotyped members such as intimate friends (Hewstone, 1987; Hewstone & Brown,
1986; Johnston & Hewstone, 1994). Television seems to have a great potential for
In sum, the study suggests that affective evaluation of television portrayals
significantly contributes to the formation of ethnic stereotypes. That
television influence on Japanese perceptions was not only significant but
substantially different in nature than that on Whites' is especially important
for a further understanding of television effects.
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Examples of Self-evaluation of Television Portrayals of African Americans:
Adjective Valence and Adjective Listed
Valence Japanese White
Positive Fast Hard working
Good looking Leader
Negative Noisy Criminals
Talkative Gang involvement
Rough Spoke Rude
Hot Temper Lazy
Rude Drug dealers
Neutral Black Old
Cool Street wise
Dysfunctional Middle class
Easy Going Fighting to survive
Table 2 Mean Scores for Stereotype Items: Ratings of African
Americans by White and Japanese Students
Whites (n = 166) Japanese (n = 83) Stereotypes
M SD M SD
Rich (+)/ Poor (-) 3.67a .78 3.00b .93
Hard Working (+)/ Lazy (-) 4.00a 1.05 3.45b 1.25
Not (+)/ Violence Prone (-) 2.98a 1.19 2.75a 1.02
Not Intelligent (-) 4.50a 1.13 3.75b 1.07
Prefer Self Supporting (+)
Live Off Welfare (-) 4.00a 1.42 3.72a 1.48
Patriotic (+)/Unpatriotic (-) 3.88a 1.36 4.23a 1.52
Do not (+)/
Likely to Commit Crimes (-) 3.02a 1.14 2.76a 1.15
Can Be Trusted (+)/
Can't be Trusted (-) 4.34a 1.30 3.41b 1.30
Do not (+)/
Likely to use drugs (-) 3.29a 1.17 3.01a 1.44
Strong Family Ties (+)/
Not Strong Ties (-) 4.76a 1.45 4.78a 1.59
Do not (+)/
Likely to deal drugs (-) 3.07a 1.09 2.46b .99
Educated (+)/ Not educated (-) 4.18a 1.15 2.99b .93
Tolerant-Other Races (+)/
Not Tolerant Oth Races (-) 3.40a 1.54 3.48a 1.57
Do not (+)/
Likely to abuse alcohol (-) 3.44a 1.02 3.24a 1.30
Overall 3.75a .68 3.36b .58
Note. For all entries, 7=positive stereotype and 1=negative stereotype. The
positive end of the stereotype is indicated as "+"; while the negative end is
indicated as "-". Means in the same
row that do not share subscripts differ at p < .05 by the ttest. Table 3
African American Stereotype Factors: Japanese Sample
FACTOR FACTOR FACTOR FACTOR COMMUNALITY
1 2 3 4 ESTIMATES
Factor 1 : Violence
Violent (-) .74 .26 .11 -.14 .64
Use Drugs (-) .70 -.01 .13 .23 .55
Abuse Alcohol (-) .69 .16 .11 .24 .58
Deal Drugs .65 .55 -.00 .03 .73
Factor 2 : Trust
Trust (+) .05 .87 .07 .13 .67
Crime (-) .26 .72 .06 -.01 .59
Lazy (-) .17 .61 .36 -.02 .53
Factor 3 : Rich
Intelligent (+) .15 .36 .69 .02 .63
Rich (+) .53 -.01 .66 -.03 .73
Patriotic (+) -.45 -.08 .65 -.10 .64
Educated (+) .36 .17 .58 .21 .54
Factor 4 : Family Ties
Welfare (-) -.02 .12 -.01 .82 .68
Tolerant (+) .14 .08 .04 .66 .47
Family Ties (+) -.15 .41 -.02 -.56 .51
VAF 2.70 2.30 1.86 1.62
Cronbach Alpha .77 .66 .61 -.21
Note. The positive end of the stereotype is indicated as "+";
while the negative end is indicated as "-". VAF = Variance
explained by each factor. Total Communality Estimate = 8.48.
Final solution with varimax rotation.
African American Stereotype Factors: White Sample
FACTOR FACTOR FACTOR COMMUNALITY
1 2 3 ESTIMATES
Factor 1 : Violence
Deal Drugs (-) .82 .23 -.02 .73
Crime (-) .77 .18 .27 .70
Violent (-) .73 .04 .27 .61
Abuse Alcohol (-) .73 .11 .00 .55
Factor 2 : Trust
Intelligence (+) -.07 .74 .26 .62
Lazy (-) .12 .74 .17 .59
Tolerant (+) .21 .65 .04 .47
Patriotic (+) .15 .57 .09 .36
Trust (+) .30 .49 .34 .45
Welfare (-) .35 .44 .35 .44
Factor 3 : Rich
Rich (+) .12 .06 .67 .47
Educated (+) .19 .40 .67 .64
Family Ties (+) .06 .23 .46 .27
Use Drug (-) .43 .43 -.44 .57
VAF 2.87 2.78 1.80
Cronbach Alpha .81 .77 .41
Note. The positive end of the stereotype is indicated as "+";
while the negative end is indicated as "-". VAF = Variance
explained by each factor. Total communality estimate = 7.45.
Final solution with varimax rotation.
Constraint analysis of vicarious contact effects
Contact Variables Japanese White X p
_______________________ ________________________________ Factor 1(V1)
Positive TV Port (V6) (1,V1,V6) - (2,V1,V6) .90 .34
Negative TV Port (V7) (1,V1,V7) - (2,V1,V7) .89 .34
No. of TV/Movies (V8) (1,V1,V8) - (2,V1,V8) .01 .92
Factor 2 (V2) : Trust
Positive TV Port (V6) (1,V2,V6) - (2,V2,V6) 5.66 .02
Negative TV Port (V7) (1,V2,V7) - (2,V2,V7) 2.77 .10
No. of TV/Movies (V8) (1,V2,V8) - (2,V2,V8) .37 .55
Factor 3 (V3) : Rich
Positive TV Port (V6) (1,V3,V6) - (2,V3,V6) 5.34 .02
Negative TV Port (V7) (1,V3,V7) - (2,V3,V7) .00 .95
No. of TV/Movies (V8) (1,V3,V8) - (2,V3,V8) .05 .81
Factor 3-2 : Intelligence
Positive TV Port (V6) (1,V3,V6) - (2,V2,V6) 2.70 .10
Negative TV Port (V7) (1,V3,V7) - (2,V2,V7) .21 .64
No. of TV/Movies (V8) (1,V3,V8) - (2,V2,V8) .16 .69
Note. Lagrange Multiple test for releasing constraints tests
TV, DIRECT CONTACT, AND STEREOTYPES
a null hypothesis of (B1 for Group 1)-(B1 for Group 2) = 0.