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Positive Portrayal versus Positive Stereotype: The Effect of Media Exposure to the Model Minority Stereotype on Asian Americans’ Self-Concept and Emotions


The nature of racial stereotypes perpetuated about Asian Americans in the media is unique, given that the most prominent stereotype about this ethnic group is often purported to be positive. Known as the model minority, this characterization defines Asian Americans as intelligent and professionally, academically, and financially successful. This level of accomplishment is also often coupled with unfavorable characterizations, such as socially and romantically inept or altogether absent of personal complexity. Although seemingly positive, positive stereotypes can negatively affect Asian Americans’ psychological well-being, but limited studies have explored its consequences. To this end, the current study examined whether media exposure to the varying portrayals of Asians as a model minority stereotype (i.e., unidimensional stigmatized, unidimensional non-stigmatized, and multidimensional) would indirectly affect ingroup audiences’ self-concept (e.g., state self-esteem, community worth, ingroup stereotyping) and immediate positive affect, through depersonalization. Furthermore, this study sought to understand whether ethnic identification would moderate the proposed indirect effect. As a result, this study revealed an indirect effect on media exposure of Asians depicted unidimensionally stigmatized as a model minority stereotype on Asian Americans’ community worth, ingroup stereotyping, and immediate positive affect through depersonalization. However, results revealed no indirect effect of media exposure to Asians characterized multidimensionally or unidimensionally non-stigmatized as a model minority on Asian Americans’ self-concept and immediate positive affect. Likewise, results revealed no conditional indirect effect via ethnic identification. The results of this study can inform media professionals and future studies on the harm that media exposure to racial/ethnic stereotypes can have for ingroup audiences.

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