Abstract

The third person effect hypothesis, which states that individuals exposed to a mass media messaage will expect the communication to have a greater effect on others than on themselves, may help to explain the growing trend in support of media censorship. It is suggested here that overestimating the effect of media on others may play an important role in the forces underlying a willingness to restrict various types of communication. To examine this relationship, this study focused on the discrepancy between perceived media effects on others and self, and its relation to pro-censorship attitudes within three major topics: the media in general, violence on television, and pornography. The results of this study support the existence of the third-person effect in mass communication. The findings also indicate that as the gap between perceived firstand third-person effects increases, individuals are more likely to manifest pro-censorship attitudes. This relationship remained for all three topics even when a variety of potentially confounding demographic, media use, and attitudinal variables were controlled. The data also suggest that for pornography the effects gap is related to a willingness to act in favor of censoring.