Putting a Human Face on Cold, Hard Facts: Effects of Personalizing Social Issues on Perceptions of Issue Importance

Maria Elizabeth Grabe, Mariska Kleemans, Ozen Bas, Jessica Gall Myrick, Minchul Kim


This study investigates the influence of personalization (moving testimony from ordinary citizens) on reception of news stories about social issues. The data (N = 80) from this mixed-design experiment, collected at two time points, offer evidence that personalized news stories evoked greater feelings of empathy toward and identification with people affected by social issues, which in turn increased perceived issue importance. Personalization effects persisted over time. Moreover, path analyses revealed gender differences in reactions to personalization. The findings imply that a major goal of journalism—to advance civic engagement with social issues—could be served by personalized story formats.


personalization, empathy, identification, gender, emotions

Full Text: