Group Membership in Race-Related Media Processes and Effects

Authored by: Dana Mastro , Anita Atwell Seate

The Handbook of Intergroup Communication

Print publication date:  May  2012
Online publication date:  June  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415889643
eBook ISBN: 9780203148624
Adobe ISBN: 9781136513619


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At its core, research in the intergroup tradition tackles the interplay between group membership and social identity in determining an array of intergroup outcomes. This delicate, yet complex, relationship is central to defining people’s sense of self, as constructed (at least in part) through group categorization and comparison. Accordingly, group membership is vital to this process. Although the implications of group membership can be quite apparent in real-world settings, its importance in mediated contexts is somewhat less obvious, despite its centrality to a number of media effects. Nowhere is this more evident than in the domain of race-related media effects. Indeed, the feature that distinguishes race-related media processes and effects from those stemming from more conventional media traditions (e.g., violence, sex) is the inherently group-based nature of this domain. The influence of group membership in this context can be seen in everything from: (a) the selection and avoidance of media content, to (b) the processing and interpretation of media messages, to (c) the construction of media-driven group perceptions, to (d) the promotion of a host of identity and intergroup outcomes. With this in mind, it would hardly be an overstatement to suggest that group membership permeates nearly every aspect of race-related media uses and effects. In spite of the considerable implications, group membership and group categorization processes have yet to receive the attention they deserve in empirical investigations. Accordingly, to more fully appreciate the unique function of group membership and group categorization in issues related to media and race, the present chapter reviews the research that has emerged to date in the contexts of television, movies, and print media, within each of the domains (a–d) noted above. Promising areas for future research also are addressed.

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