Positive news articles can mitigate impact of negative stories, says study
Colchester (England), May 20: People who saw the news about kindness among people after consuming news about a terrorist attack or other immoral acts felt less negative emotions and retained more belief in the goodness of humanity, a study has said.
The was published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Kathryn Buchanan from the University of Essex and colleague Gillian Sandstrom from the University of Sussex, UK.
Researchers of the study split 1,800 participants into different groups. Participants were shown one- to three-minute-long video news clips or given brief news stories to read in each group: news reporting on a recent UK-based terrorist attack or similar ("Immorality" group); reports of kind acts performed in response to the terrorist attack or unrelated kind acts ("Kindness" group); lighthearted, unserious material ("Amusement" group); and content from the Immorality group plus either the Kindness ("Immorality and Kindness") or the Amusement ("Immorality and Amusement") group.
Participants in the "Immorality" group reported significant increases in negative feelings and decreases in pleasant emotions, as well as more negative perceptions of humanity and society.
Participants in the "Immorality and Kindness" group reported fewer rises in negative emotion and lower decreases--or even considerable increases--in good emotion. Participants in the "Immorality and Kindness" group also had much more positive attitudes toward mankind than those in the "Immorality" group. In terms of gains in pleasant feelings and perceptions of society, the "Immorality and Kindness" group reported more successful mitigation of the negative impacts of immorality than the "Immorality and Amusement" group.
The findings imply that positive news can help provide an emotional buffer against negative news. Kind behaviours, as opposed to merely funny ones, were especially successful in assisting participants in retaining ideas about the goodness of others.
The authors believe that their findings may encourage the media to provide more positive coverage, as well as constructive or solution-oriented framing for complex, important issues.
"News stories featuring the best of humanity take the sting out of items exploring the worst of humanity. This allows people to believe to maintain a core belief that is crucial for good mental health: that the world and the people in it are fundamentally good," researchers said.
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