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Social Perception: Impersonal Impact

Patricia Moy


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According to the impersonal impact hypothesis, the mass media influence individuals' perceptions of risk to others (societal-level risk), but not perceptions of risk to themselves (personal risk; →  Risk Perceptions ). Implicit in this hypothesis is the notion that individuals can compartmentalize various perceptions of risk, differentiating between societal-level judgments, or beliefs about the larger community with respect to a given risk, and personal-level judgments, or estimations of their own vulnerability to that risk ( Tyler & Cook 1984 ). Although the disjuncture between first and third persons in impersonal impact also is seen in the →  third-person effect , two key points are noteworthy. Not only is the perceived risk in the third-person effect the media message itself, but also, unlike the impersonal impact hypothesis, the third-person effect does not require consumption of the media message. Indeed, the third-person effect posits that people believe media to have greater effects on others than on themselves ( Davison 1983 ). Impersonal impact also is conceptually distinct from impersonal influence , a term Mutz (1998) used to describe how anonymous others and individuals outside one's immediate life-space can influence one's attitudes, cognitions, and behaviors. Within this domain of research, the media's role is as a conduit of information regarding others' ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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