The third-person effect: Perceptions of the media's influence and immoral consequences

Michael B. Salwen, Michel Dupagne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations


A nationwide telephone survey of 721 adults examined the impact of the third-person effect on individuals' perceptions of the media's general influence and immorality effects with three issues. The third-person effect perceptual hypothesis predicts that individuals will perceive media messages to have greater effects on other people than on themselves. A behavioral hypothesis predicts that third-person perception (i.e., seeing others as more influenced) will lead to support for restrictions on media messages. The findings reaffirmed robust support for the perceptual hypothesis. Regarding the behavioral hypothesis, effect perceptions were found to be issue dependent. For television violence, the issue with the clearest moral dimension, perceived immorality effects predicted support for restrictions. In contrast, perception of the media's general influence was a key predictor of support for restrictions on televised trials and negative political advertising. The failure of past research to distinguish dimensions of perceived effects may account for the less than robust findings regarding the behavioral hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-549
Number of pages27
JournalCommunication Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language


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