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Third-Person Effects

Hans-Bernd Brosius and Inga Huck


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The third-person effect was introduced into communication research by W. Phillips Davison in 1983 . The term conceptualizes his impression that people overestimate the impact that mass media content has on others – so-called “third persons”: In its broadest formulation, this hypothesis predicts that people will tend to overestimate the influence that mass communications have on the attitudes and behavior of others. ( Davison 1983 , 3) People not only overestimate media impact on others, but they also deny that the mass media have an impact on themselves. This does not mean that media are actually more influential on others than on oneself, or even that the media are influential at all. The crucial point is the difference in the perceived or presumed media effect on others and on oneself (→  Media Effects ; Media Effects, Strength of ). The third-person effect is a purely perceptual phenomenon (→  Media and Perceptions of Reality ; Social Perception ). It is sometimes also called third-person perception. Davison's basic assumption has already been confirmed by a series of more than 100 empirical studies. Only two studies failed to do so (→  Perceived Reality: Meta-Analyses ). Although the idea initially seemed to be quite simple, its empirical study led to further questions, such as (1) how general the phenomenon is, (2) what conditions increase or decrease the size of the it, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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