Media news influences our opinions. News on immigrants greatly change people’s attitudes and behaviors towards them. However, it remains a question whether the influence of news that irrelevant with immigrants could spillover to immigration issues, and even more, the psychological mechanism behind such effect is also unknown. Present research examines the spillover effect of media news which seems unrelated to immigrants (such as news about epidemic prevention works or news about disaster response systems in foreign countries) that affects the people's support for the immigration policy of their own country. Based Association Attitude Learning and Intergroup Threat Theory, this research innovatively proposes both intra-individual and inter-group mechanism of spillover effects of media news:
In study 1, the memory-recognition paradigm was used to examine the activation of participants’ attitude associations after they were exposed to different news (positive vs. negative), in order to test the activation mechanism of the intra-individual attitude associations from exposure of immigrant-unrelated news (epidemic prevention and control situation) to outgroup attitude. 44 participants memorized the pairings between two countries and positive or negative words regardless of whether they were divided into the positive news group or the negative news group, followed by the intervention of news reading and finally a recall of paired words. The results shows that when reading positive news, country in the news was more recalled with positive words; when reading negative news, country was more recalled with negative words.
In study 2 we conducted a social survey (N =4502) to explore the spillover effects of exposure of news that seems unrelated to immigrants (proportion of unfavorable information about protests in foreign anti-epidemic reports) to immigration policy acceptance, and tested the indirect effect of outgroup attitude and the inter-group mechanism (intergroup threat and anger). The results shows that exposure to negative news negatively predicts outgroup attitude, while outgroup attitude negatively predict intergroup threat and anger. In addition, intergroup threat and anger reduce immigration policy acceptance, and there is a negative indirect effect from news exposure to immigration policy acceptance.
Study 3 selected a new situation which unrelated with epidemic, and manipulated the exposure of news (a neutral group vs. two negative groups) that seemed unrelated to immigrants (introduction to foreign disaster response systems). This study explored causal impact of news on immigration policy acceptance, and re-examined mediator roles of outgroup attitude and inter-group mechanism (intergroup threat and anger). The results shows that the negative news exposure reduced people’s positive attitudes towards outgroup and their support for immigration policy. Outgroup attitudes, intergroup threats, and anger still mediated this effect.
In summary, under immigration issues the present research examines the spillover effect of immigrant-unrelated news on immigration policy acceptance, and reveals the intra-individual mechanism (attitude association activation) and inter-group mechanism (intergroup threat and anger as mediators) of the spillover effect. The research itself adds some value to the Association Attitude Learning perspective and the Intergroup Threat Theory, and provides practical suggestions to the intergroup relation between Chinese and foreign immigrants.