Advertisement

Sex Roles

, Volume 51, Issue 9–10, pp 535–542 | Cite as

Twice Hurt: How Newspaper Coverage May Reduce Empathy and Engender Blame for Female Victims of Crime

  • Phyllis A. Anastasio
  • Diana M. Costa
Article

Abstract

In a content analysis of 148 newspaper articles we examined whether victims of violent crime (excluding sex crimes) are treated differently according to their gender. Articles taken from 4 newspapers showed that accounts of violent crime personalize male victims more than female victims: more personal information was included about male victims, and males were significantly more likely to be referred to by name rather than by a noun (“the victi”) or pronoun. In a second study we investigated whether such treatment could affect both empathy for the victim and victim blame. Participants read an account of a murder that manipulated victim gender, degree of personal information, and the manner in which the victim was described. Empathy for the victim was increased across victim gender by both inclusion of personal information and referring to the victim by name. Victim blame was also reduced by the inclusion of personal information. Implications of how the news media may subtly reduce empathy and engender blame for female victims are discussed.

media news victim gender victim blame empathy 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

REFERENCES

  1. Abrams, D., Viki, G. T., Masser, B., & Bohner, G. (2003). Perceptions of stranger and acquaintance rape: The role of benev-olent and hostile sexism in victim blame and rape proclivity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 111–125.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Archer, D., Iritani, B., Kimes, D., & Barrios, M. (1983). Faceism: Five studies of sex differences in facial prominence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 725–735.Google Scholar
  3. Burt, M. R. (1980). Cultural myths and support of rape. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 217–230.Google Scholar
  4. Carll, E. K. (2003). News portrayal of violence and women: Implications for public policy. American Behavioral Scientist, 46, 1601–1610.Google Scholar
  5. Clawson, R. A., & Trice, R. (2000). Poverty as we know it: Media portrayals of the poor. Public Opinion Quarterly, 64, 53–64.Google Scholar
  6. Costin, F. (1985). Beliefs about rape and women's social roles. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 14, 319–325.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Cowan, G., & Curtis, S. R. (1994). Predictors of rape occurrence and victim blame in the William Kennedy Smith case. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, 12–20.Google Scholar
  8. Deitz, S. R., Littman, M., & Bentley, B. J. (1984). Attribution of responsibility for rape: The influence of observer empathy, victim resistance, and victim attractiveness. Sex Roles, 10, 261–280.Google Scholar
  9. Edwards, S. M. (1987). “Provoking her own demise”: From common assault to homicide. In J. Hanmer & M. Maynard (Eds.), Women, violence, and social control (pp. 152–168). Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International.Google Scholar
  10. Gilens, M. (1996). Race and poverty in America: Public misperceptions and the American news media. Public Opinion Quarterly, 60, 515–541.Google Scholar
  11. Glassner, B. (1999). The culture of fear: Why Americans are afraid of the wrong things. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  12. Harvey, J. H., & Omarzu, J. (1997). Minding the close relationship. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 1, 224–240.Google Scholar
  13. Jones, A. (1994). Next time she'll be dead: Battering and how to stop it. Boston: Beacon.Google Scholar
  14. Mawby, R. I., & Brown, J. (1984). Newspaper images of the victim: A British study. Victimology, 9, 82–94.Google Scholar
  15. Mayerson, S. E., & Taylor, D. A. (1987). The effects of rape myth pornography on women's attitudes and the mediating role of sex role stereotyping. Sex Roles, 17, 321–338.Google Scholar
  16. McCombs, M., & Reynolds, A. (2002). News influence on our pictures of the world. In D. J. Terry & M. A. Hogg (Eds.), Attitudes, behavior, and social context: The role of norms and group membership (pp. 1–18). Mahwah, NJ: ErlbaumGoogle Scholar
  17. Meyers, M. (1994). News of battering. Journal of Communication, 44, 47–63.Google Scholar
  18. Meyers, M. (1997). News coverage of violence against women: Engendering blame. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  19. Mullen, B., Tice, D. M., Baumeister, R. F., Dawson, K. E., Riordan, C. A., Radloff, C. E., et al. (1986). Newscasters’ facial expressions and voting behavior of viewers: Can a smile elect a president? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 291–295.Google Scholar
  20. Muller, R. T., Caldwell, R. A., & Hunter, J. E. (1994). Factors predicting the blaming of victims of physical child abuse or rape. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 26, 259–279.Google Scholar
  21. Ohbuchi, K., Ohno, T., & Mukai, H. (1993). Empathy and aggression: Effects of self-disclosure and fearful appeal. Journal of Social Psychology, 133, 243–253.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Pistrang, N., Solomons, W., & Barker, C. (1999). Peer support for women with breast cancer: The role of empathy and self-disclosure. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 9, 217–229.Google Scholar
  23. Rule, B. G., & Ferguson, T. J. (1986). The effects of media violence on attitudes, emotions, and cognitions. Journal of Social Issue, 42, 29–50.Google Scholar
  24. Sinclair, H. C., & Bourne, L. E., Jr. (1998). Cycle of blame or just world: Effects of legal verdicts on gender patterns in rape-myth acceptance and victim empathy. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 22, 575–588.Google Scholar
  25. Surette, R. (1994, July). Media, violence, youth, and society. The World and I, pp. 370–383.Google Scholar
  26. Zuckerman, M., & Kieffer, S. (1994). Race differences in faceism: Does facial prominence imply dominance? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 86–92.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Phyllis A. Anastasio
    • 1
  • Diana M. Costa
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySaint Joseph's UniversityPhiladelphia

Personalised recommendations