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Matthew Kobach and Robert Potter (2013) arrive at this article within the premise that previous analyses have provided them the knowledge that sports commentators use different terminology when describing the successful actions of black athletes and white athletes. The authors are dealing with an age old debate of brain versus brawn. While there is a notion suggesting that there is no direct evidence tying race to athletic expertise, the authors believe that sports media perpetuates stereotypes that suggest that there is. Whether or not the media’s commentary sculpts the way viewers think, and to what degree, are the questions that remain. While there have been previous articles written on studies in regard to sports stereotypes, none have gone as far as to gauge the effect on viewers. This journal article delves into both the overt thoughts of the participants, as well as their implicit reactions to imagery.
Kobach & Potter (2013) believe that a combination of survey and testing will support their belief that people associate black athletes with natural ability and white athletes with hard work and intelligence. Moreover, these results will be further supported by the participants with greater amounts of exposure to sports media on a daily basis. In layman’s terms; people that watch and listen to more sporting events, shows, and commentary will more often than not show evidence of a shared belief system with the commentators when it comes to sports related stereotype associations.
Initially a sports-consumption survey is completed in order to determine that amount of sports media the participant is exposed to daily. The participants consisted of 65 males, and 49 females, and all but 7 identified themselves as white. Additionally, unique computer version of the Implicit Association Test is used to show images of both black and white athletes. Participants are prompted to connect certain words with the images that appear on their screens. On the screen, participants saw images in two categories that separated black and white athletes. The descriptive words the participants are asked to connect with the images are separated into two categories; smart words, and natural words. Intelligent, prepared and coachable are examples of smart words, while strong, quick and fast are words that would be associated with the natural athlete. It is important to point out that the response time in which it takes the participant to attach the words to the images, plays a large part in determining the degree to which they believe their answer. A formula involving standard deviation and a baseline average response time was devised to create an accurate score.
The authors’ hypotheses were supported by the results of the testing. Furthermore, when the results of the sports consumption survey were factored in, these results also supported the belief that those with greater exposure to sports media would have an even stronger association with stereotypical beliefs. These test results show support that the viewers, at the very least implicitly, are affected by sports media and the perceptions of both white and black athletes. Also, the study’s results found a powerful connection between automatic stereotypical associations and the quantity of sports broadcasting the participants watch. Interestingly, those with very little exposure to sports media still answered in a way that supported the hypotheses. The implication of these results is that exposure to sports media affects how viewers associate stereotypical words with both white and black athletes.
I found this journal article to be interesting, but the methodology of the study has some flaws in my opinion. First, the stimuli shown to the participants were not action shots of the athletes in game settings, but instead close-ups that featured them wearing casual attire. I think in order to get accurate answers across the board the images need to show athletes in the process of playing their sport. Also, the pools of participant groups are comprised almost exclusively of white students. In order to get a better idea of how pervasive the media effect is you need to involve a more diverse group of participants. In my opinion, it would be interesting to see the test results of members of different races. Lastly, this testing was done at a major university in the Midwest. I’m curious about how the results would vary if the same research was done at various geographic areas throughout the United States.
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