The Third-Person Effect 40 Years After Davison Penned It: What We Know and Where We Should Traverse

Richard M. Perloff, Lijiang Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Forty years ago in 1983, W. Phillips Davison coined the term “third-person effect,” generating a robust outpouring of research. This paper places the third-person effect in the contemporary age, one vastly different from the era in which Davison conceptualized perceptions of media effects. The article first describes the historical, sociological climate in which Davison operated, noting how the concept congealed with the intellectual zeitgeist of the 1980s. The paper then provides a critical synthesis of research on the self-other perceptual disparity and the behavioral corollary, focusing on early studies, moderators, mediators, and meta-analytic findings. After describing problems and complexities in third-person research, we ponder implications for the very different media and political psychological climate of 2023. We propose four specific research questions and four testable propositions, building on classic and contemporary theory and research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)384-413
Number of pages30
JournalMass Communication and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication

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