News of Y2K and experiencing Y2K: Exploring the relationship between the third-person effect and optimistic bias

Michael B. Salwen, Michel Dupagne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study gauged Americans' beliefs about predicted Y2K problems during the weeks before New Year 2000. It examined the alleged relationship between the third-person effect and the social psychological theory of optimistic bias. The third-person effect predicts that people judge themselves less influenced than others by media messages. To explain the effect, some media researchers have drawn on optimistic bias, which posits that people judge themselves less likely than others to experience negative life events. Few researchers, however, have directly tested the empirical relationship between the two perceptual approaches. As hypothesized, respondents judged themselves less influenced than others by news reports about Y2K (third-person perception) and less likely than others to experience Y2K problems (optimistic bias). But the study did not find the hypothesized relationship between the approaches. Furthermore, third-person perception and optimistic bias were functions of mirror opposite blocks of predictors. The findings indicate that third-person perception is not merely a media case study of optimistic bias. We suggested that people use different criteria to estimate experiencing events and believing media messages about the events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-82
Number of pages26
JournalMedia Psychology
Volume5
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003

    Fingerprint

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Applied Psychology

Cite this