chapter  13
16 Pages

Stay Tuned: The Role of the Break in the Message on Attribution of Culpability

When we learn about something bad that is happening in the world and realize that it could also happen to us, we are motivated to determine who is responsible for the event and how much responsibility that person should be assigned (Dolinski, 1992; Shaver, 1985; Thornton, 1984; Walster, 1966). Determining responsibility may help in finding the meaning of an aversive and threatening situation, regaining a sense of control over possibility of its recurrence, and ameliorating negative affect aroused by an encounter



with the threatening message (Shaver, 1985; Thompson, 1981; Walster, 1966; Wortman, 1976). Nowadays, mass media (e.g., TV, radio, the print press, etc.)—a highly important element of our cultural surrounding-are the major sources of threatening stories about people’s wrongdoings and the often accompanying disastrous consequences. In our research, we focus on the way such stories are presented in the media as a factor affecting attribution of culpability to persons in the story. In particular, we turn our attention to the fact that these stories are often divided into separate segments and to how this bifurcation impacts attributions of responsibility.