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Exemplification and Exemplars, Effects of

Gregor Daschmann

Subject Psychology
Communication Reception and Effects » Persuasion and Social Influence

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


The term “exemplification effect” describes the influence of illustrating and aggregating case descriptions in media presentations on the recipients’ perceptions of issues. Aggregating case descriptions emerges whenever media coverage presents any kind of generalizing claim about natural or social phenomena and an arbitrarily selected sample of single cases to illustrate the issue at hand. General claims (e.g., “growing poverty in society”) often are supported by presenting quantitative information (so-called “base-rate information”) about a large number of cases (e.g., statistics about poverty; →  Statistics, Descriptive ). Single case information often describes events, episodes, individual experiences, or testimonials (e.g., the fate of an individual homeless person, testimonials of homeless, etc.). This suggests that the general claim can and should be applied to events or subjects beyond the displayed cases. Therefore, single cases serve as examples (also called “exemplars”) that illustrate (i.e., exemplify) the general claim about the total population of phenomena (the exemplified) from which these cases are drawn. However, as a rule, the recipients’ conceptions of frequency, urgency, or potential risk of the events covered are strongly influenced by the number and type of the exemplars, whereas the general information often is ignored. From an epistemological perspective, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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