Local television crime news visuals and concern about crime: exploring the cultivation process through recall and meaning of visual images
Artwick, Claudette Guzan
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This study explores cognitive processes involved in cultivation by examining recall and meaning of visual images in local television crime news and their relation to concern about crime. Data were gathered through a content analysis, viewing experiment, and survey. The content analysis documented visual patterns found in a sample of local television crime news in six U.S. cities, and provided data used to construct the study's viewing experiment. Free recall and meanings of visuals were measured in three crime news viewing treatments. The survey measured television exposure (including news and local news), concern about crime (through 15 measures and four indexes), criminal victimization, and general demographic data. A sample of 118 University of Washington students participated in the study.Results show significant differences between heavier and lighter viewers in their constructed meanings of television crime news visuals. The differences appear to be linked to higher concern about crime for the heavier viewers. Heavier news viewers, more often than lighter viewers, interpret crime-specific visuals (i.e. a body on a stretcher) with meanings that go far beyond what is evident in the pictures. Their interpretations also focus on crime. Viewers who remember crime-specific shots are more likely to express greater concern about crime than viewers who recall more general visuals. Results imply that specific content viewing, particularly the visual aspects of television news, play an integral role in cultivation. The findings further our understanding of the cultivation process by suggesting that cognitive differences in visual processing between heavier and lighter viewers contribute to greater concern about crime for heavier viewers.
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