Publication Date



School of Behavioral Sciences




Refugees, Perceptions, Language, Media, News


Cognition and Perception | Journalism Studies


The refugee crisis has become a worldwide epidemic in recent years. As refugee entrance into host countries is debated, media outlets are covering the issue regularly. These media outlets use various types of language when portraying refugees. Many publications have been found to convey hostile and divisive themes as well as use specific linguistic tools, which contribute to negative portrayals of refugees. Media outlets have the potential to influence public perceptions of refugees because the general public in a host country receives its information primarily from the media. Overt and subtle language used to describe refugees has been previously found to influence public opinions. This study of 101 students at a conservative Christian university in the mid-Atlantic United States was designed to examine whether manipulated language in news articles impacted perceptions of refugees. Participants were randomly assigned to the positive or negative language condition and then asked to complete a survey assessing four facets of perception. None of the results were significant, indicating the language in the article did not impact perceptions of refugees. This study was limited by lack of diversity in the sample, the use of self-report data, potential personal confounds, and a small sample size. The results implied a need for balance when calling for media ethics and a need for many more empirical studies in this area.