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What Are the Effects of the Media on Perception?

Alex Tree
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The effects of the media on perception can distort or change peoples’ opinions on beauty, politics, and disease. For example, some people argue that the media has a much higher, sometimes unrealistic standard of beauty, which can lead viewers to have unrealistic expectations for themselves and others. Most news sources are biased in some way, which often shows in their writing when reporting political news. As for disease, studies find that infections and diseases that get a lot of media attention are usually assumed to be much worse than in reality. Experts disagree about the exact effects of the media on perception, however, and whether they are good, bad, or neutral.

Newspapers, news stations on televisions, and other media forms often employ models or purchase stock photos of models. With television news reporters in particular, appearance can be a major factor in whether a person gets the job or not. Magazines are also another form of the media, many of which employ only very slender models. Both stock photos and magazines are usually edited to look better. Even if the effects of the media on perception had none of these factors, the frequent reports on new cosmetic drugs and surgeries, celebrity lifestyles, and makeup products could lead people to focus more on beauty than they otherwise would.

The effects of the media on perception can even influence a nation’s politics. Surveys were conducted regarding how many people believed falsehoods and misconceptions spoken by United States reporters. The conclusion was that the media does indeed influence the average person's opinion and beliefs, but these findings are not proof that the media affects a person’s vote. Another study gave free politically biased newspapers to people for a period of time and measured their voting patterns against those of people who did not read political newspapers. This study found that reading left-leaning newspapers caused people to vote more democratic, as did right-leaning newspapers regarding votes for more conservative candidates.

Another effect of the media on perception is that the more often a health issue is mentioned, the more serious people assume it is. Studies show that even a single incident in the news can increase public concern. One study showed that medical students who have much more knowledge about diseases than the average person were greatly influenced by the media too. After letting study participants read about each disease or infection, many rated lesser-reported illnesses as more concerning. The general consensus is that the more informed people are of illnesses, the less afraid of them they are.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Alex Tree
By Alex Tree
Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and The Health Board contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.

Discussion Comments

By Markerrag — On Oct 17, 2014

@Vincenzo -- Perhaps that is where it is the job of the parent to step in and reassure a kid that she (or he) looks fine and to explain that television rarely reflects reality. Such positive reinforcement, though, must be started early in a child's life for it to be effective when that kid is a teen.

The teen years are full of confusion and weird emotions, anyway. Images on television just reinforce insecurities that teens already have.

By Vincenzo — On Oct 16, 2014

The impact the media has on perception is a terrible thing to see up close. My 13-year-old daughter and a good number of her friends don't believe they measure up to the pretty women and girls they see on television. The problem is that television sets an unrealistic standard. Fighting against the impression that people ought to look a certain way is difficult.

By Terrificli — On Oct 16, 2014

@Logicfest -- That may be true of some reporters, but certainly not all of them. There are clearly some biased news sources out there, but search around a bit and you will find some good, impartial ones that try to report just the facts and let readers, viewers or listeners decide the truth for themselves.

There have always been biased reporters. And, just like always, there are some who fight against bias. Do some research and find the good news sources because they are out there.

By Logicfest — On Oct 15, 2014

The thing about the media being biased is unfortunate. There was a time when journalists strove to be unbiased and recognized that all humans have bias. The good reporters just fought against it.

It seems that reporters don't fight against bias so much these days. They just rationalize their own bias as being the truth and report it.

Alex Tree

Alex Tree

Andrew McDowell is a talented writer and The Health Board contributor. His unique perspective and ability to communicate complex ideas in an accessible manner make him a valuable asset to the team, as he crafts content that both informs and engages readers.
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