Economic perceptions and the mass media: The role of exemplification within economic news stories

Date

2012-12

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Abstract

The persuasiveness and influence of exemplars over base-rate information has been well researched throughout exemplification studies. Few would argue the narratives, vivid language, and sometimes colorful statements of exemplars have an overwhelming effect, suppressing the less than vibrant base-rate. Current studies though have begun to illustrate individual characteristics that have the ability to shortcircuit the effects of exemplars. For instance, recent research has shown an individual’s arithmetic aptitude plays a dominant role in how they process numerical base-rate data versus exemplars. This study continues that line of research, focusing on how subject matter knowledge, in this case economics, can also reduce and diminish the influence of exemplars.

Through the implementation of a 2 (high economic & low economic aptitude) x 2 (base-rate positive & base-rate negative) x 3 (representative, non-representative, & mixed exemplars) experiment the results showed individuals with higher economic literacy were less influenced by exemplars and held relatively consistent attitudes toward the overall strength of the economy across all conditions. Individuals possessing lower economic literacy were found to be significantly more affected by exemplars as their attitudes and opinions varied across the different manipulations, indicating their lack of knowledge regarding the subject left them susceptible to exemplars.

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Keywords

Exemplification, Base-rate, Exemplars, Economic news, Economic information, Media

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