Lynch, Jack, and Annabel McGoldrick. “Psychophysiological Audience Responses to War Journalism and Peace Journalism.” Global Media and Communication (early view; online first).
This article presents and discusses the results of an experiment in which television viewers were exposed to either a war journalism (WJ) or a peace journalism (PJ) version of two news stories, on Australian government policies towards asylum seekers and US-sponsored ‘peace talks’ between Israel and the Palestinians, respectively. Before and after viewing, they completed a cognitive questionnaire and two tests designed to disclose changes in their emotional state. During the viewing, they also underwent measurement of blood volume pulse, from which their heart rate variability (HRV) was calculated. HRV measures effects on the autonomic nervous system caused by changes in breathing patterns as subjects respond to stimuli with empathic concern. Since these patterns are regulated by the vagal nerve, HRV readings can therefore be interpreted as an indicator of vagal tone, which Porges et al. propose as an ‘autonomic correlate of emotion’. In this study, vagal tone decreased from baseline through both WJ stories, but showed a slightly smaller decrease during the PJ asylum story and then a significant increase during the PJ Israel–Palestine story. These readings correlated with questionnaire results showing greater hope and empathy among PJ viewers and increased anger and distress among WJ viewers, of the Israel–Palestine story.