University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Place of Publication
Countless news articles are published in print or digital form each day, creating a need to understand what makes stories attractive and believable. Salacious, oftentimes negative, news stories tend to effectively grab readers’ attention (Entman, 1993; Serani, 2011), and when the news stories are accompanied by photographs, readers’ interest in the articles is promoted (Knobloch et al., 2003). However, the extent to which negatively framed stories are perceived as believable is largely unknown. The current study examined whether a story’s valence (i.e., positive or negative) affects the believability of news articles, particularly in the presence of a photograph. It was hypothesized that the inclusion of a photograph within a negatively valenced story would increase believability. A total of 103 participants were recruited for the study, which was conducted as a 2 (Photograph: Present or Absent) x 2 (Overall Story Valence: Positive or Negative) between-subjects experimental design. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the study’s four conditions, where they read a positively or negatively valenced news article about an immigrant’s experience with Customs Border Patrol. The article was either accompanied or not accompanied by a photograph. Participants then completed a measure of narrative believability (Yale, 2013). Results revealed that negatively valenced stories were perceived as more believable than positively valenced stories, and this effect did not change with the presence or absence of a photograph. Findings have implications for how the news media should present (accurate) information to promote believability of content and further improve reader interest and engagement.
Backman, Camryn E. and Sonnentag, Tammy L.
"The Effect of Photographs on the Narrative Believability of Positively and Negatively Framed Stories,"
Modern Psychological Studies: Vol. 28:
1, Article 6.
Available at: https://scholar.utc.edu/mps/vol28/iss1/6