If you’ve taken a college-level psychology course, you might remember learning about priming, or “the psychological process of shaping people’s perceptions” of something (Kollman 349). Think of priming as influencing someone to think about a topic in a particular way by either advocating a particular perspective and/or playing on common connotations (Kollman 349). For example, if a cable news host started talking about an infrastructure bill and then presented viewers with images of roads in ill repair, viewers are probably more likely to support it, or to support it with more fervor.
You might also remember framing, which involves specifically emphasizing particular aspects of an issue over others to influence peoples’ perceptions (Kollman 349). One example of framing would be a news article about an infrastructure bill that focuses on how much money was spent on the bill much more than the actual content of the bill or other important aspects of the topic.
As these examples illustrate, the press can have a lot of influence on their audiences’ interpretations of politics. What aspects of different issues or characteristics of politicians that the media focuses on can have a large effect on how people weigh the importance of these factors and how they view different politicians (Kollman 566). Therefore, the press has a responsibility to be accurate and fair in their coverage. We as their audience should be thoughtful in how we interpret the news and willing to hold the press accountable.
Kollman, Ken. The American Political System. 3rd ed., W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2017.