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Media and Public Perceptions of crime

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 2398 words Published: 15th Aug 2018

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Crime stories and representations are, and have always been, a popular focus of the mass media. The percentage of media content that is constituted by crime images and stories obviously will depend on the definitions of ‘crime’ used. A glimpse at the television guide, the movies listings in the cinema, or press headlines, will highlight both the interest the general population has in crime and criminals, and the key role the media play in describing all features of criminal behaviour. People are excited with crime and justice (Howitt, 1998). From films, books, newspapers, magazines, television broadcasts, to everyday talks, we are continuously participating in crime “talk”. A large amount of this crime will be fictional, others, ‘real life’, and our enthusiasm for reading and watching about both seems to be evident. Television documentaries, news programmes and local or national newspapers emphasise and discuss crime and criminal justice issues on an everyday basis. Stories about crime are a more limited proportion of news, varying according to medium (e.g. radio, television, or print journalism) and market (e.g. ‘quality’ or ‘popular’ journalism). In this chapter we will analyse how the media influence public opinion through social cognitive theory and information processing theory.

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The public’s knowledge and understanding of crime, criminal justice, police forces and police investigations, is often derived from the media and is greatly based on what they have watched or heard through various media forms (Jewkes, 2011). More generally, it is not feasible for people to know everything about society through their own experience thus the media has the role of informing and entertaining people. It is important to say that several studies have found a correlation between people views about crime and the criminal justice system, and the media. Dorfman (2001) found that 76 percent of the public said they modulated their opinions about crime from what they see or read in the news compared to those who get their primary information on crime from personal experience at 22 percent. It is not surprising that the academic interest in the field of criminology and criminal justice is growing as studies showed the popular media and general public interest in this area has the highest percentage (Jewkes ,2011). Heath and Gilbert (1996) initiated that the association among media productions and offence is contingent on the features of the communication and the viewers. Production of great amounts of neighbourhood offence news creates enlarged fear between the outsized public, (Brillon, 1987; Sheley and Ashkins, 1981) whilst the presentation of great sums of non-local offence news has the contradictory result by construction the local audience feel safer (Liska and Baccaglini, 1990). Also, Chiricos et al (2000) found out that local and nationwide news are connected to fear of felony. The result of neighbouring news on fear of crime is stronger for people in elevated offence locations and persons who have passed through victimisation. Public perspectives toward police are in general positive (Huang and Vaughn, 1996). Nevertheless, there are a small number of studies that considered the media’s control on peoples’ ratings of police force efficiency. A large amount of the literature concentrates on media depictions of police officers and results expose two contradictory views. Some researchers suggest that the police are displayed positively in the media, whilst other study argues that the police are unenthusiastically portrayed in the media (Pollak and Kubrin, 2007).

Police presentations are often over-dramatised and romanticised by imaginary television felony dramas while the news media display the police as daring, qualified crime fighters (Surette, 1998; Reiner, 1985). In television crime dramas, the mainstreams of crimes are solved and unlawful suspects are successfully detained (Dominick, 1973; Estep and MacDonald, 1984; Carlson, 1985; Kooistra et al. 1998, Zillman and Wakshlag, 1985). Likewise, news presentations have a tendency to overstate the percentage of crimes that consequence in catch which projects a representation that police are more successful than official statistics show (Sacco and Fair, 1988; Skogan and Maxfield, 1981; Marsh, 1991; Roshier, 1973). The sympathetic vision of policing is partially a result of a police force’s people relations scheme. Coverage of practical police actions creates a representation of the police as effectual and well-organised investigators of crime (Christensen, Schmidt and Henderson, 1982). Therefore, a constructive police display strengthens usual opinions to law and order that engage enlarged police attendance, cruel penalties and rising police power (Sacco, 1995). Modern offences-solving shows like CSI, Law & Order and a range of spin-offs has obviously increased public cognition of the function that science can take part in solving crimes and gathering proof which may be used to help convict the criminals.

Also, numerals of researchers suggest that a symbiotic association subsists among news media workers and the police. It is argued that the police and the media involve in a commonly advantageous connection (Jewkes, 2011). The media wants the police to give them with rapid, trustworthy sources of offence information, while the police have a vested attention in retaining a constructive public image (Ericson, Baranek, and Chan, 1987; Fishman, 1981; Hall et al, 1978). Nonetheless, other researchers suggest that the police are not displayed completely positive in the news media. For example, Surette (1998) argues that docu-dramas and news small programs symbolise the police as heroes that fight bad people, up till now publish and broadcast news exemplify the police as unproductive and useless. Likewise, Graber (1980) argues that the wide-ranging public appreciates police presentation more positively compared with judges and alteration. In English courtrooms media coverage and the use of microphones or videos are not allowed (Howitt, 1998). However, Graber (1980) suggests that the media gives tiny information to critic police and that the news media centre on unhelpful criticism rather than helpful or triumphant crime prevention exertions. Basically, most media crime is penalised, but policemen are infrequently the heroes (Lichter and Lichter, 1983). Research examining the agenda-setting function of the news media has undergone a dramatic re-conceptualisation in recent years. No longer is research based on the nation noted by Cohen’ that “the press may not be successful in telling us what to think but is stunningly successful in telling us what to think about” (Cohen, 1963, p.13). Indeed, researchers now argue that, under certain circumstances, the news media do tell people what to think by providing the public with an agenda of attributes a list of characteristics of important newsmakers. Individuals mentally link these mediated attributes to the newsmakers to a similar degree in which the attributes are mentioned in the media (Marsh, Ian, Melville and Gaynor, 2008).

The Social Cognitive Theory is also called “social learning,” “observational learning,” or Modelling. This theory has its roots in psychology. This communication theory was developed by Albert Bandura in the 1960s. His idea was that people watch and learn by others, specifically they perform and imitate behaviours through observation by other people. In today’s days increasingly media- society, the mass media communication becomes the basis of observational learning. In order to appropriately learn from the media a person must be exhibited to the media, then be able to encode and memorise the event, and finally be able to decode their view of the media into a suitable reply. This theory deals partly with media and how it affects behaviours. The modelling theory is mostly applied to the consequences of aggressive media on behaviour, but it can be applied to other variables like sex, pro social, or purchasing behaviour. Because of the powerful role the mass media get in the world, considerate the psychosocial mechanisms throughout representative communication effects human thought, affect, and action is of importance. Social cognitive theory provides an ‘agentic conceptual framework’ in which to examine the decisive factors and mechanisms of such effects. Human behaviour has often been explicated in terms of ‘unidirectional causation’, in which behaviour is formed and forced either by ecological influences or by inside moods. Social cognitive theory explains psychosocial operations in terms of ‘triadic reciprocal causation’ (Bandura, 1986). In this alternative view of self and society, individual factors in the figure of cognitive, affective, and biological events; behavioural patterns; and environmental events all function as interacting factors that influence each other (Bandura, 1986, 2001a). People are self-organizing, proactive, self-reflecting, and self-determining, not just reactive organisms formed by ecological events or inside forces. Human self-development and alteration are enclosed in social systems. Furthermore, personal organisation functions within a wide system of socio-structural influences. In these agentic communications, people are producers and also products of societal regimes. Private group and social arrangement function as co determinants in an included causal structure rather than as an intangible duality. Seen from the socio-cognitive viewpoint, people’s nature is a huge capability that can be shaped by straight and observational experience into a range of shapes within natural limits. To say that a main distinctive mark of people is their exceptional elasticity is does not to mean that they have no character or that they appear ‘structure- less’ (Midgley, 1978). The flexibility, which is inherent to the nature of humans, depends on neurophysiological mechanisms and structures that have developed over time. These higher neural systems specialised for dealing out, remaining, and employing coded information give the ability for the very abilities that are noticeably human-genital symbolisation, foresight, axiological self-arrangement, pensive self-consciousness, and symbolic message (Bryant, Jennings, Zillmann and Dolf, 2002).

Humans have developed a higher capability for observational learning that gives them the opportunity to enlarge their knowledge and skills quickly through information transferred by the rich range of models. Indeed, practically all behavioural, cognitive, and influencing learning from straight experience can be succeed representatively by observing people’s actions and its results for them (Bandura, 1986; Rosenthal & Zimmerman, 1978). A large amount of social learning derives either knowingly or unknowingly from models in one’s direct surroundings. However, a large amount of information about people values, ways of thinking, and behaviour norms is acquired from the lengthy modelling in the symbolic setting of the mass media (Bryant, Jennings, Zillmann and Dolf, 2002).

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The effects of media on the public can also be explained through information processing models which have been developed by cognitive psychologists (Graber, 1984; Kraus and Perloff, 1985). Information-processing research suggests that people have cognitive constructions, called “schemas,” which organise people’s thinking (see chapter 2). A person’s system of schemas stores independent faiths, attitudes, principles, and choices (Rokeach, 1973). The schemas are straight concentration to related information, driven its understanding and assessment, provide conclusions when information is absent or vague, and make easy its memory (Fiske and Kinder, 1981, p. 173). Schemas do not select out all unknown or rough information, there are not filter of memory, they just help people’s mind to organise their thoughts. As Bennett (1981) argues, that information process, substantially fabricates parts of recognition and idealistic accusations and new Scholars have used many terms such as ”scripts”, inferential sets”, ”frames” and ”prototypes” to explain this situation. Information-processing theory identifies and assists clarify how stances derive from a dynamic interaction of new information with peoples’ pre-existing beliefs. (Entman, 1989) The explicit model of thinking that cognitive psychologists have been putting together thus interferes with the implied model in much of the media research. People are vulnerable to considerable media effects, according to the information processing theory, despite of the autonomy model suggestions which support that people ignore the most new or dissonant media reports. In the information-processing viewpoint, a person first values a media report for salience. If salient, the person works out the news according to rotes established in the schema system. Processing may drive the person either to store the information or abandon it; if the information stored, people may adopt new beliefs or change old beliefs (Entman, 1989).

Social Psychology and Media effects

Social psychologists talk about conformity and they argue that people act as group and define things and form their opinions as group, as the majority do. It is possible that a person has a different opinion from the group but the influence that he or she receives is much more dynamic. Thus, people change their opinion about a subject to suit to group’s opinion (Gross, 2010) People modify their opinion in response the information that they receive from others, also when people do not feel that they have the accurate perception about a subject they look to others to perceive the stimulus situation accurately. This is called informational social influence (Bordens and Horowitz, 2000) But sometimes people change perception in response to pressure to conform to a norm or in order to gain social approval and avoid rejection they agree with the group because of their power (Wren, 1999)


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