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Facebook and the cultivation of ethnic diversity perceptions and attitudes

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Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to apply cultivation theory to social network sites by investigating how Facebook uses cultivates users' ethnic diversity perceptions and attitudes.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors’ investigations include an online and offline survey study with 476 Facebook users and a follow-up experiment with 75 individuals.

Findings

The authors provide empirical support that Facebook use cultivates ethnic diversity perceptions and ethnic diversity-related attitudes. They show that Facebook use relates to perceptions of ethnic minorities that resemble the world on Facebook that is characterized by high ethnic diversity. The authors further demonstrate that the cultivation of ethnic diversity-related attitudes is mediated by diversity perceptions related to users' close social environment.

Research limitations/implications

Future research should consider culturally and educationally diverse samples as well as longitudinal research designs to address external validity and causality issues.

Practical implications

Algorithms determining the content users are exposed should be thoughtfully curated to avoid attitudinal and ideological polarization.

Social implications

Facebook can play an important role in positively shaping intergroup relations, thereby countering negative outgroup attitudes, social anxieties and radical right-wing parties.

Originality/value

The authors’ studies extend the scope of cultivation research by identifying a new media vehicle as a source of cultivation influences and shed light on the cultivation-based process of attitude change on social network sites.
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Keywords: Attitudes; Cultivation; Ethnic Diversity; Facebook; Perceptions

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: European University Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder), Germany 2: German Graduate School of Management and Law, Heilbronn, Germany

Publication date: April 10, 2020

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