Monday, February 15, 2010

Exaggeration and hyperbole in news titles and their psychological impact

This sketch on The Daily Show demonstrates how titles of news items can be misleading, while being funny. I wrote back in Novermber 2009 on this subject, in a post titled How news headlines frame the discussion: rhetoric subtleties, discussing the power of titles.

it's always nice to find a popular demonstration.

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Here is my original post:
In this blog post The Last Psychiatrist looks at news headlines following the Ft. Hood incident, and asks us to guess by publication, which headline goes with what publication.

Political inclinations aside, it is an interesting example of how language shapes us, and how it can be used to bias our opinion one way or the other, establishing the frame for the discussion. Or if you prefer, to underline what we should look at by what the publication believes matters.

The author finds this especially important, as he believes most people only skim the headlines to begin with unless they are specifically interested.

In my experience, headlines often have little to do with what's actually written in the content, and in fact, can instigate beliefs contrary to reality which will persist for years.

One such example from my own experience relating to the 2007 Internet attacks against Estonia, what is now often referred to as "The First Internet War". A story came out when Estonia arrested one student for participating, but the title was that the Estonian student was behind the attacks, which is ridiculous, but a lingering belief.

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