13.12.2017 change 13.12.2017

Sociologist: Contact with a negative narrative significantly affects views

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

Negative messages affect people's views more strongly and faster than positive messages - according to Dr. Michał Wenzel, sociologist from the SWPS University. For his analyses, the scientist used media narrative concerning refugees, among other things.

For the needs of his research, Dr. Wenzel used an experimental scheme in the survey - he presented to the surveyed people, as a stimulus, various articles from the Polish media concerning refugees arriving in Europe. Two kinds of articles have been presented. Some described the positive impact of these people on local communities and their successful integration, while others presented refugees as a threat, also in the context of terrorism.

"People who previously had a negative view of the stay of refugees from Muslim countries in Europe - and at the same time declared themselves as PiS voters, after reading the texts in principle did not change their attitude towards them. The situation was different in the case of respondents considered PO supporters and other people undecided with regard to accepting refugees" - Dr. Wenzel told PAP.

The researcher found that a text on refugees - with a negative overtone - would change the attitude of the respondents. This change was clearly visible at the statistical level.

On the other hand, a positive message did not cause significant changes in any of the groups (PiS or PO supporters).

"Negative emotions appear faster than positive ones, and they cause a more visible effect" - said the sociologist, commenting on the results. This reaction can be explained at the level of evolutionary social psychology - he said. He noted that the sense of fear helped our species survive for thousands of years.

"Fear is the primal survival instinct" - he noted.

The scientist came to his conclusions while carrying out research within the framework of the project "The influence of media on political attitudes", financed by the National Science Centre. As part of this research, his colleagues also found that the use of different sources of information is "quite strongly related to political party preferences of citizens".

The research confirmed the intuitive predictions that PiS voters prefer TVP, and watch Polsat TV more often than TVN. This group, more often than other Polish citizens, also reads Super Express or Gazeta Polska, and listens to Polish Radio news. In turn, PO and Nowoczesna voters primarily watch TVN. They also listen to RMF FM, Radio Zet or TOK FM more often than the others and tend to read Gazeta Wyborcza and Polityka.

"Facebook is the most commonly used medium in acquiring information on public issues, it is treated as an independent source of knowledge" - added Dr. Wenzel. In practice, this means that the surveyed respondents often did not realize where the displayed content came from.

"If people who use social media are not able to identify the source of content, they do not have the tools to verify its reliability, which creates a threat" - added the sociologist. Among the dangers associated with this he mentioned the possibility of manipulating the recipient through "fake news", understood not so much as a clearly false message, but as a message based on randomly selected, non-representative facts that are not typical manifestations of a phenomenon.

PAP - Science in Poland

author: Szymon Zdziebłowski

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