*Meaux, L.T., *Doran, S.C., & Cox, J. (2020). Aberration of mind or soul: The role of media in perceptions of mass violence. Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, 12, 209-222.
Unconscious biases against certain groups aid in forming assumptions which may be promulgated in the USA via popular news media linking rare but memorable violent acts with specific groups. However, the relationship between marginalized group association, assumptions regarding the motive for violent acts and individual media consumption has never been directly examined. This study aims to directly examine this relationship. In the present study, individuals read a vignette of a mass shooting in which the perpetrator’s implied religion (i.e. Islam or unknown religion) was manipulated. Participants then indicated their assumptions regarding motive (i.e. terrorism or mental illness) and personal media consumption habits. Contrary to hypotheses, differences in assumed motive based on implied religion were not found; participants were not more likely to associate an assumed Muslim perpetrator with terrorism as a motive or consider the assumed non-Muslim perpetrator to be mentally ill. These unexpected findings are discussed in the context of the data-collection period, which coincidentally overlapped with a well-publicized act of domestic terrorism that led to a unique national debate regarding biased news coverage and associations between religion, ethnicity, terrorism and mental illness.