This post discusses several relevant pieces of literature produced by scholars on the origins of perception and media bias.
In America, citizens have the right to exercise their media literacy skills to search for a vein of truth or a version they can live with. To accomplish this people must cut through the veneer in search of visceral content and that includes stories they may not agree with. But most people are too busy to digest multiple news sources and often feed on news outlets that resonate with their political, social, or environmental positions. So, instead of challenging their views, they merely reinforce them.
Pronin, Kennedy, and Butsch (2006) concluded that people are so confident in their own point of view that others appear biased. In other words, if a co-worker’s views are far from your own, he or she may appear biased to you. Data collected by scholars also suggested that a variety of factors cause perceived bias; for example, an affiliation with a particular political group will alter perception instead of the actual media coverage itself (Ariyanto, Hornsey, & Gallois, 2007; Kim & Pasadeos, 2007). Therefore, people on both sides of an issue will look at the same media story and see it as biased (Ariyanto, Hornsey, & Gallois, 2007; Kim & Pasdeos, 2007).
People unconsciously allow the media to build their perception and eventually manipulate their belief systems. So, how can people re-construct their personal views? Is it possible? I argue that people can change by supplementing their media mix. If individuals use one source like Fox News, but do not supplement it with other views their perception will be limited. The same could be said for those who take in a daily diet of only CNN or Al Jazeera. Aday, Livingston, and Hebert (2005) deduced from their research that during the lead up to the Iraq War, American networks barely mentioned the growing dissent in the US and worldwide that brought millions of people out to rallies and marches. In contrast, Al Jazeera devoted 6.7% of its airtime to the issue of dissent (Aday, Livingston, & Herbert, 2005). Would the Bush administration have sold the public on initiating the war if Americans had heard in greater detail about the worldwide and U.S. dissent on the news? Sadly, we will never know.
In sum, scholars have analyzed the origins of perception bias and concluded that people base their perception of events on the following:
1) what they watch, listen, or read,
2) which political party they affiliate with, and
3) a host of other factors.
In America, many people grew up with only three television networks and they still rely on these sources today. However, young people growing up with new technologies prefer a plethora of options and are ripe to learn how to use them. In that regard, media literacy advocates must continue to encourage people of all ages to vary their media mix to ensure more balance and a broader perspective.