THE EFFECT OF EMOTION AND CULTURE IN ONLINE NEWS IMAGES ON MEMORY AND ATTRIBUTION ASSESSMENT OF SUBSEQUENT TEXT
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This study is an experiment exploring the effect of emotion-laden and culturally salient news images on the processing of the subsequent news text in the online news setting. It argued that emotional and cultural elements carried in the news images can act as influential "heuristics" that jointly define the memory specificity and attribution judgment of the news text. This study pursued the concept of "culture" as it affects processing at a psychological level from both a dimensional perspective and a dynamic-constructivist approach. From a dynamic constructivist perspective, this study investigated the difference in the effect of seeing news photos portraying Chinese versus European Americans on news readers' memory and attribution of the text. From a dimensional view, it also examined the possible differences in attribution and memory as a result of the readers' own cultural identity, as being either European American or Chinese. The experiment used a 2X2X2 repeated measures design. The three factors included image emotion (positive vs. negative: within-subject), image culture (Chinese individual vs. European American individual: within-subject), and participant culture (Chinese vs. European American: between-subject). Twenty four non-student American adults and twenty four non-student Chinese adults (who had just come to the United States from Mainland China for a short visit) participated in the experiment. Four different news topics that would be salient to members of both cultures were used. To minimize the unmeasured effects of any given stimulus topic, a repeated measures design was employed. The results showed that news images alone did not have a significant impact on the overall memory for information in the news text. However, negative news images "narrowed" participants' memory, making them significantly less likely to recall the "peripheral" non-integral news information accurately, but this trend was prominent only when the images showed someone of the reader's own cultural group. The data also indicated that after viewing negative news images, participants were four times more likely to attribute the news event to external situational causes rather than dispositional factors of the main figure in the news. This trend was least noticeable when the image portrayed European Americans and most dominant when the photo showed Chinese. Other findings are discussed in detail.