The mass media and judgments of risk: Distinguishing impact on personal and societal level judgments

Tom R. Tyler*, Fay L. Cook

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

257 Scopus citations


Recent research findings about whether mass media reports influence risk-related judgments have not been consistent. One reconciliation of the differing findings is the impersonal impact hypothesis, which suggests that media impact occurs with societal level judgments about general problem importance or frequency but not with judgments about personal risks. Three studies, with 465 undergraduates were conducted to test this hypothesis. Results support the impersonal impact hypothesis by suggesting that personal and societal level judgments are distinct and that media reports exert their primary influence on societal rather than personal judgments. Although media reports influenced judgments about societal risks but not about risks to one's self under the conditions examined in the present research, personal judgments may be affected under other conditions. Conditions under which media reports may have differential or similar effects on personal and societal-level judgments are considered in relation to the base rates of an event occurring, the strength of the media case that a problem exists, and the individual's identification with the problem. (55 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)693-708
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1984


  • mass media reports, societal vs personal level judgment of risk, college students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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