German speakers discuss how media affects our emotions in particular situations

Mengyuan Dong

Mass media not only provides the public with information but also has an impact on people’s emotions, said Leyla Dogruel, a media professor at Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany.

Dogruel spoke to UT students and faculty about the connections between the media, emotions and moral judgments during a lecture at the Jesse H. Jones Communication Center on Wednesday.

“Media coverage not only shapes our attitudes to an event, but also our emotions,” Dogruel said. “It contributes to the adequacy of emotional responses to particular situations.”

During the lecture, Dogruel explained the concept of feeling rules. Feeling rules are how different social norms affect the way people feel emotions, and often define what they feel in particular situations.

To further explain the concept, Dogruel mentioned a study which found that media messages in Germany are interpreted differently by different groups of people, depending on their feeling rules. 

Inspired by studies similar to the German study, Dogruel and her research partner Sven Joeckel conducted an experiment to find out how media affects people’s emotions, especially on political issues. For instance, they looked at Ukranians’ opinions on Russian foreign policy and found that messages and comments on Facebook had the power to make them feel more afraid.

However, Joeckel said they have yet to find sufficient findings to support their ideas due to the limited development of their tools and looks forward to doing future research with more advanced methods.

When it comes to practical ways for college students to form a more independent understanding of issues, Dogruel said using different media and sources and having conversations with people who have different opinions can help.

Public relations junior Autumn Sanders said she found her emotions toward an issue are affected a lot by media, and she plans to implement Dogruel’s advice to read news from more than one source.

“After realizing that, I always try my best to read both sides of an issue before I form an opinion,” Sanders said.

Wednesday’s lecture was the first of the Media Ethics Initiative Speaker Series and will be followed by four more lectures in the fall semester.

“The point of sessions like this is not just to judge a bunch of stuff, but to encourage reflective discussion over really tough issues that don’t have easy solutions,” said Scott Stroud, director of the Media Ethics Initiative, said.