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More than black and white : ethnicity and memory for televised events Hennessy, Craig Norman


Television can be a powerful teacher about the world outside the viewer's immediate environment. Inequalities exist in the portrayals of different racial-ethnic groups on television, and people form both positive and negative attitudes toward these groups based on the information presented. This study examined whether a person's ethnic group membership and/or message characteristics related to ethnicity influence a viewer's recall of information presented on a television newscast. The participants, 145 Chinese Canadian and 118 European Canadian undergraduate university students, viewed a simulated newscast and completed a test of recall for details of the information presented. The main finding was that the ethnicity of both the viewer and the subject matter, as well as the valence of the material, had an effect on the information recalled by the two groups of participants. In particular, Chinese Canadian participants' recall for a negative news story about the Chinese community in Vancouver was better than the recall of European Canadian participants. There was no difference for a positive story about the Chinese community, and European Canadians' recall for the other stories that were not about ethnicity was better than that of the Chinese Canadian participants. This held true both before and after competence in English was controlled. Recall was also related to ethnic self-identity rating as measured by the Suinn-Lew Asian Self-Identity Acculturation Scale (SL-ASIA). Chinese Canadian participants with a highly Asian self-identity score showed a lower rate of recall for non-Asian stories, whereas no such relationship was found for European Canadians. Implications for ethnic group portrayals on television are considered in light of these results.

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