How Television News Viewers Deal with Facts that Contradict Their Beliefs: A Consistency and Attribution Analysis1


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    The research reported here was supported by Public Health Service Grant MH22424–02. The authors wish to thank Marie Claire Kamin for her assistance as the experimenter in the present study.


This study was conducted to investigate the effect of a counterattitudinal news story on the perceived credibility of a television newscaster. In the basic 2 × 2 design, subjects, who were either pro-student or pro-police, viewed a newscast in which either students or police were blamed for initiating a violent confrontation. The results indicated that subjects, for whom the newscast's conclusion was counterattitudinal (as compared to those for whom the conclusion was consistent with initial student-police attitudes), rated the newscast as less objective, rated the newscaster as less credible and more intending to persuade, and attributed to the newscast and newscaster more extreme political positions consistent with the newscast's conclusions The implications of these results for the problem of newscaster credibility are discussed, as are the connections between the present results and previous research on communicator credibility.