Third-Person Perception about Domestic Violence among Experts

Article excerpt

The current study used a test and re-test of the same third-person perception instrument with similar participants to attempt to replicate findings. Both studies used emergency medical personnel (study 1, N = 587 urban hospital personnel; study 2, N = 212 suburban and rural hospital personnel) to assess the impact of actual expertise on third-person perception regarding media depictions of domestic violence. Results were stronger than anticipated, yielding instead first-person perception. The study contributes to the growing literature linking third/first-person perception to optimistic bias and extends the behavioral component of person-perception research by testing a relationship with self-efficacy, with mixed results.

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There was a service unit consisting of Negro troops with white officers on Iwo Jima Island in the Pacific (WWII). The Japanese learned about the location of this unit and sent planes over with propaganda leaflets. These leaflets stressed the theme that this was a white man's war and that the Japanese people had no quarrel with colored peoples. They said more or less, "Don't risk your life for the white man. Give yourself up at the first opportunity, or just desert. Don't take chances." The next day that unit was withdrawn (Davison, 1983, p. 1).

Thus began the first investigation into third-person perception, then called third-person effect. In lay terms, people believe the most powerful influence of the media isn't on themselves (the first person) or their peers (the second person), but on distant "others" (the third person). Because people act on their perceptions, third-person perception can have tangible consequences. Davison (1983) noted that no impact was observed among the targeted African-American soldiers, but white officers' perceptions of the effect of the leaflets led to swift action.

Since its inception, third-person perception (TPP) has been well documented in dozens of contexts. Paul, Salwen and Dupagne's (2000) meta-analysis documents the robustness of findings, but also highlights several shortcomings. The over-reliance on college student samples has produced inflated effect sizes. Numerous theoretical frameworks have been tested, with mixed results. Few studies go beyond documenting the phenomenon to exploring the behavioral links which were key to the original study. Why did the white officers assume their soldiers would be influenced by the leaflets enough to surrender a military position? The current study attempts to address some of the issues raised by the meta-analysis and explore some possible behavioral consequences of TPP.

Recent TPP studies show the belief that others are more influenced by media messages continues to emerge across various media. White American college students believe television coverage of terrorism affects others more than themselves (Haridakis & Rubin, 2005); Israeli parents fear the impact of their favorite soap operas on children (Tsfati, Ribak & Cohen, 2005); Taiwanese college students believe they are less influenced than others by Internet pornography (Lo & Wei, 2002). Two of the three studies above also yielded behavioral implications. Concerned parents are more likely to monitor their children's television viewing. Students concerned about the impact of Internet pornography are more likely to support government regulation and censorship.

Support for censorship/regulation is the most common behavioral prediction made in TPP research (Chia, Lu & McLeod, 2004; Huh, Delorme & Reid, 2004; Lo & Wei, 2002; Neuwirth, Frederick & Mayo, 2002; Tsfati, Ribak & Cohen, 2005). Others have included preparing for a predicted disaster (Salwen & Dupagne, 2003; Tewksbury, Moy & Weis, 2004), risky sexual behavior (Chapin, 2000; 2001; Duck, Terry, & Hogg, 1995), cigarette smoking (Eveland, Nathanson, Detenber, & McLeod, 1999; Gunther & Thorson, 1992), and physical relocation (Tsfati & Cohen, 2003). …