How Does News Media Exposure Amplify Publics’ Perceived Health Risks About Air Pollution in China? A Conditional Media Effect Approach
This study examines how the effect of news media exposure on perceived health risks is conditioned by perceived self-relevance and perceived news credibility, based on the issue of air pollution in China. An online survey (N = 1,257) showed that the positive association between news media exposure and perceived health risks was stronger in conditions where perceived self-relevance was high than in conditions where perceived self-relevance was low. Furthermore, in conditions where perceived self-relevance was low, this positive association was stronger in the condition where perceived news credibility was high than the condition where perceived news credibility was low. The conditional media effect approach to public risk perceptions explicates the mechanism of the individual stations in the social amplification of risk framework (SARF) and highlights SARF’s individual aspect. Moreover, this approach indicates that individuals have some level of agency to select from numerous news based on perceived self-relevance, whereas this selective exposure is not necessarily accompanied by critical judgment of news credibility. These findings anticipate an ongoing tension between ubiquitous media influence and individual agency.