Affective and Cognitive Processes As Mediators of Media Influences on Crime-Policy Preferences

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This study examines the effects of individuals' media use patterns on the interplay of affect and cognition in forming citizens' preferences for 2 distinctive crime policies: punitive and preventive. The results of a survey conducted with a probability sample of 395 adult residents of Madison, Wisconsin, revealed that preference for preventive policies is mediated by an aspect of individuals' thinking process: complexity. Support for punitive policies is, conversely, a result of an affective process: fear. Both processes originate from particular patterns of media use. Use of complex media content is related to more-complex thinking about crime, whereas exposure and attention to the simple, infotainment format of various reality-based pseudo-news, talk, and news-magazine shows is related to lower levels of complexity. Crime- and violence-ridden television local news use is exclusively related to increased fear of crime. This study implies that media may affect individual judgments by the structure of their presentation in addition to their content.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-329
JournalMass Communication and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2001


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