Event Title

Influence of Social Media Exposure, Knowledge and Officer Location on Police Perceptions

Poster Number

010

Session Title

Influence of Social Media

Document Type

Poster Presentation

Faculty Mentor

Merry Sleigh, Ph.D.

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Department of Psychology

Description

The study investigated exposure to police-related content on social media and adults’ perceptions of police use of force. Location of the police activity was also manipulated to gauge its effect on perceptions. Participants were 119 adults with a mean age of 24.36 (SD = 10.13). The majority were Caucasian (64%) and women (80%). Participants were assigned to one of three experimental conditions via an online platform. In all conditions, participants read about police-citizen interactions that varied in the use of force and level of suspect resistance. The conditions differed in where the interactions were said to have taken place: familiar small town, familiar large city, or unfamiliar small town. Participants provided their opinions about the scenarios, and responded to a knowledge quiz about policing, the Perceptions of Police Scale, and questions about their exposure to social media as a news outlet. Results revealed no support for the hypothesis that geographic location would influence perceptions of police-citizen interactions, suggesting that perceptions of police officers maintain across situations and reveal global consistency. Instead, race and social media exposure were more predictive of police perceptions. Matching the hypothesis, reliance on social media related to more negative attitudes toward police officers. Perhaps social media exposure helps create the negative attitudes, or conversely, those with negative attitudes look to social media for confirmation of their opinions. Compared to Caucasians, and reflecting current societal tensions, African American adults reported more negative police perceptions and more exposure to negative postings about police on social media.

Previously Presented/Performed?

Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA) Annual Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana, April 2020; Sixth Annual Showcase of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors (SOURCE), Winthrop University, April 2020

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Apr 24th, 12:00 AM

Influence of Social Media Exposure, Knowledge and Officer Location on Police Perceptions

The study investigated exposure to police-related content on social media and adults’ perceptions of police use of force. Location of the police activity was also manipulated to gauge its effect on perceptions. Participants were 119 adults with a mean age of 24.36 (SD = 10.13). The majority were Caucasian (64%) and women (80%). Participants were assigned to one of three experimental conditions via an online platform. In all conditions, participants read about police-citizen interactions that varied in the use of force and level of suspect resistance. The conditions differed in where the interactions were said to have taken place: familiar small town, familiar large city, or unfamiliar small town. Participants provided their opinions about the scenarios, and responded to a knowledge quiz about policing, the Perceptions of Police Scale, and questions about their exposure to social media as a news outlet. Results revealed no support for the hypothesis that geographic location would influence perceptions of police-citizen interactions, suggesting that perceptions of police officers maintain across situations and reveal global consistency. Instead, race and social media exposure were more predictive of police perceptions. Matching the hypothesis, reliance on social media related to more negative attitudes toward police officers. Perhaps social media exposure helps create the negative attitudes, or conversely, those with negative attitudes look to social media for confirmation of their opinions. Compared to Caucasians, and reflecting current societal tensions, African American adults reported more negative police perceptions and more exposure to negative postings about police on social media.