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Complicated Currents

Chapter 5



June Woong Rhee, Seoul National University

June Woong Rhee is an Associate Professor of media and communication at Seoul National University, South Korea. He recieved his PhD in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania in 1997. His articles on political communication and social cognitive approach to communication have appeared in the Journal of Communication, Communication Research and Political Communication. He is currently working on Internet media and their role in democratization in Korean society.

Chul-joo Lee, Ohio State University

Chul-joo Lee, is an Assistant Professor in the School of Communication at Ohio State University and works in the area of health communication and science communication. He has published in the Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Journal of Health Communication, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Communication Methods and Measures, Science Communication, and Mass Communication & Society.

During the late 1990s and thereafter, media markets in East Asia experienced a phenomenal expansion (Goonasekera 1997; Waterman and Rogers 1994). This development of East Asian broadcasting and telecommunication industries has led to an increase in the number of media channels and the sum of media consumption in the region. One of the most important consequences of this media expansion is that cross-cultural consumption of media products in the region has developed into a major new cultural trend. In other words, the expansion of media channels represents not only changes in production but also changing patterns of cultural consumption: younger generations in China are drawn to Korean1 pop stars; Korean people have begun to collect Chinese films; Japanese audiences await the broadcast of non-Japanese Asian dramas.2

The explosion in Chinese consumption of Korean media products exemplifies this new trend. Diplomatic relations between China and Korea were normalized in 1992, and from the late 1990s there were markedly increased exchanges of cultural products, as well as interpersonal interactions, between the two neighbouring nations. Given that the peoples of China and Korea had had little contact with each other for decades it is interesting to examine what actually happened to one people’s beliefs, emotions, and attitudes through the massive consumption of the other’s dramas, films, CDs, and books. In this paper, we focus on the extent to which one people’s cross-cultural experiences of another’s media products influence the audience’s beliefs, emotions, and attitudes.

In particular, we want to explore the ways in which Chinese beliefs, emotions, and attitudes towards Korea are affected by mass consumption of Korean dramas, films, CDs, books and so on. It is generally agreed that free and reciprocal interactions with members of other groups or societies can contribute to changes in existing beliefs and stereotypes, to the alleviation of negative emotions, and to the creation of particular attitudes toward these other groups and societies (Aberson et al. 2004; Allport 1954; Lee et al. 2004; Pettigrew 1997, Pettigrew 1998; Stephan et al. 1994; Wolsko et al. 2003).3 To be more specific, case studies suggest that if the interacting groups do not compete with one another and have equal status, common goals, and authorized sanction for the contact (Pettigrew 1997), interaction tends to (i) deepen understanding of and identification with the other and, (ii) change stereotypes and negative emotions toward the other. We want to examine whether this hypothesis remains valid when applied to mass-mediated contacts.

In particular, considering that the information disseminated by mass media can be superficial and indirect, producing limited cognitive gains (Fiske 2002; Kim et al. 1997) and thus making it difficult to form a genuine identification and empathy with the members of out-groups, we want to compare the effects of mass-mediated experiences of others with the effects of interpersonal contacts.

This study also pays close attention to two different processes that account for the impacts of cross-cultural interaction: cognitive and emotional. It is assumed here that beliefs and emotions are two different pathways for the construction of attitudes toward others. Given the fact that previous research has focused primarily on the cognitive causes of intergroup and intercultural outcomes, it is also desirable that the emotional counterpart be investigated (Baldwin and Hunt 2002; Eagly and Chaiken 1993). In this vein, the exploration of how Chinese beliefs and emotions about Korea and Korean people are formed jointly and how these beliefs and emotions, in connection with each other, affect Chinese attitudes toward Korea should facilitate a more rigorous understanding of the cognitive and emotional processes of ‘intercultural attitudes’.


To understand the effects of cultural product consumption on audience beliefs, emotions, and attitudes toward the country of origin for these cultural products, we consult the theories of and empirical findings from (1) media socialization studies, (2) intergroup contact studies, and (3) studies on the intercultural assimilation process.

Of course, one can easily encounter numerous cultivation studies conducted in international contexts (e.g. Gerbner et al. 1994; Morgan 1990; Weimann 1984). Under the assumption that television is ‘a socializing agent, or a continuing stream of reality’ (Rubin et al. 1988: 107), cultivation researchers have examined the relationship between television coverage, the amount of exposure to television, and audiences’ beliefs in reality. Weimann (1984), for example, found that Israeli adolescents and undergraduates who watched a great deal of US television were likely to overestimate the rates of wealth and income in America. Also, Hawkins and Pingree (1980) reported that children in Australia who were heavy television viewers held television-like beliefs about foreign countries. In addition, Zaharopoulos (1997), in his examination of the relationship between Greek high school students’ US television program viewing and their perception of US cultural values, found that the students who watched US programs more frequently than others had more positive images and attitudes about US citizens.

However, cultivation studies are limited in several respects. First, findings are quite mixed (see Beadle 2003; Elasmar and Hunter 1993). That is, the effects of foreign television exposure on attitudes or knowledge about foreign countries are not robust in terms of either direction or statistical significance. Second, cultivation studies rarely speak to the psychological mechanisms by which international television exerts influence on foreign audiences. They simply assume that some kind of learning goes on (see Gerbner et al. 1980). Thus, it is hard to derive practical guidelines from these studies in addressing psychological mechanisms that inform the effects of Chinese consumption of Korean mass media products on attitudes toward Korea.

We rely upon the following groups of studies in order to propose our research model. First are studies on media socialization in international contexts (Tan et al. 1986; Tan et al. 1997; Tan et al. 2003). Based on the premises of social learning theory (Bandura 1986) and the motivations for functionality of values (Merton 1957), this category of studies assumes that the audience will accept and adopt values and norms represented in television programs when they find the values and norms functional to their motivations. In particular, Tan and his colleagues have explored the process by which international audiences develop American values and norms as well as stereotypes about America through the experience of watching American television series. They in fact found that in Taiwan and Mexico, the consumption of American television programs was predictive of the perceived value of hedonism and stereotypical beliefs about Americans such as that they are aggressive, cruel, or pleasure-seeking (Tan et al. 1986). In Russia, the frequent viewing of American dramas was found to correlate with holding perceived American values such as tolerance, equality, democracy, and wealth, while the frequent consumption of comedy, sports, or music did not correlate with the prevalence of holding such values (Tan et al. 2003). Contrary to the cultivation hypothesis that emphasizes the overall amount of media consumption in producing ‘reality effects’, Tan et al.’s media socialization studies suggest that the specific consumption of different media and genres will produce differing effects on the acceptance of the norms and values portrayed.

Another category of researchers, labelled intergroup contact theorists, assume that exposure to or contact with out-group members ameliorates malignant intergroup attitudes through changes in beliefs and emotions about out-groups, and in-group reappraisal (Pettigrew 1998). Although past research on intergroup contact has mainly focused on face-to-face interaction, recent studies have expanded the meaning of contact to media coverage of out-groups (e.g. Lee et al. 2004). For example, Lonner and colleagues (Lonner et al. 1985) studied the impacts of TV viewing on children living in Alaska, where there had been no regular TV service until 1977. They found that after watching TV, children’s unfavourable ratings toward African Americans, with whom they seldom had real-life experiences, became favourable on their rating scale. Notably, however, the portrayal of black characters on TV shows broadcast in Alaska at that time was not uniformly positive. In sum, this group of studies argues that simple exposure to out-group members through television consumption may lead to a significant change in negative intergroup stereotypes and hostile attitudes toward out-groups.

Finally, research concerning the intercultural assimilation process might also be helpful in understanding the cognitive and motivational effects of using foreign media in developing an understanding of other cultures (Gudykunst and Kim 1992; Yaple and Korzenny 1989). Kim et al. (1997) and Kim (1997) noted that for immigrants a variety of media use, as well as interpersonal contacts, significantly helps them to assimilate to the host country in both cognitive and motivational ways. Mass media, of course, are less successful in delivering customized and detailed information than interpersonal communication, which can be adapted easily to each individual’s specific needs and motivations. However, in disseminating information in a less burdensome way, mass media are also less intrusive (Yaple and Korzenny 1989). Schiappa et al. (2005) further showed that if people are engaged in mass-mediated para-social interaction in a manner similar to interpersonal interaction, such mass-mediated interactions can be as beneficial with regard to behavioural support. Thus mass media can function as an effective communication channel in the acculturation process of immigrants, by providing sufficient opportunities to learn about an unfamiliar society and its people (DeFleur and Cho 1957).

These mixed findings in media socialization, intergroup contact, and intercultural assimilation studies indicate that it is hard to put forth directional hypotheses concerning the effects of Chinese use of Korean mass media products. Therefore, we explore whether Chinese consumption of Korean mass media products leads to stereotypical beliefs about and emotions toward Korea.


As a significant body of previous studies has suggested, interpersonal contacts compete with various media-use variables in their influence on people’s understanding of other societies. For example, exploring the relationship between diverse modes of communication and cross-cultural adaptation among Indian immigrants in the United States, Shah (1991) concluded that interpersonal contact plays a stronger role than any other mediated form of communication.

More specifically, the ‘contact hypothesis’ suggests that interpersonal contacts can alter people’s attitudes by promoting mutual understanding and by cultivating relevant emotions (Aberson et al. 2004; Allport 1954; Lee et al. 2004; Pettigrew 1997; Pettigrew 1998; Stephan et al. 1994; Wolsko et al. 2003). According to Pettigrew (1997), having a friend, an acquaintance, or even a neighbour of another nationality can significantly reduce negative beliefs and emotions toward out-group members. Moreover, this effect can extend even to members of the out-group with whom people have not come into personal contact. Pettigrew then suggests that in order to adequately understand this spillover effect, emotional processes should be considered, because cognitive learning processes alone cannot explain how people can form an attitude toward those whom they have not met. This thus leaves us with an important question: Which is the more effective in facilitating understandings of neighbouring countries, mass-mediated interaction or interpersonal contacts?


In order to account for the relationship between Chinese people’s consumption of Korean cultural products and their attitudes toward Korea, we propose that such consumption interacts with two related processes: the construction of stereotypical beliefs about Korea and the elicitation of emotions about Korea. In particular, we want to focus on the formation and reinforcement of stereotypical beliefs about Korea as the key processes by which emotions are built and attitudes are constructed. Being a set of enduring beliefs about the attributes of other countries, stereotypical beliefs are utilized as raw material for building emotions and the formation of attitudes. Thus, in this study we will first examine the content of stereotypical Chinese beliefs about Korea.

Among such beliefs about Korea that Chinese people may cultivate through their consumption of Korean media products, we focus on two dimensions: ‘modernization’ and ‘hospitality’. We adopt with some modification these two categories from research conducted by Fiske and her colleagues (Fiske et al. 2002; Cuddy et al. 2004; Lin et al. 2005), in which they suggest that stereotypical beliefs about others have two key dimensions: ‘competence’ and ‘warmth’. They showed that many stereotypes are distributed along these two dimensions, in contrast to a common expectation that stereotypes about others consist of a uniform antipathy or contempt. Specifically, they found that people tend to perceive others who belong to a higher-status group than their own as ‘capable or competent’, whereas they perceive others who belong to a group with which they are in competition as ‘hostile or not warm’. Likewise, they found that people tend to perceive others who belong to a lower-status group than their own as ‘less capable or competent,’ whereas they perceive others who belong to a group to which they feel superior as ‘friendly or warm’.

We believe that this categorization can generally be applied to stereotypical beliefs about other societies. That is, one might come to perceive and evaluate other societies in terms of the extent to which that society is developed or modernized and to which the society is friendly to members of other societies. This is because stereotypical beliefs are based on people’s perceptions of social structural relations, such as ‘social status’ and ‘competition’. This relationship also provides us with insights regarding stereotypical beliefs in an international context (Cuddy et al. 2004; Fiske et al. 2002; Lin et al. 2005). We thus expect that the content of Korean dramas, CDs, films, and books convey information from which Chinese people can make inferences regarding the international status and competitiveness of Korean society. For those who consume such content, information about the extent of modernization and westernization of Korean society as well as the extent to which Korean society welcomes others may be used for the formation of stereotypical beliefs.


As outlined earlier, we assume that Chinese people’s attitudes toward Korea are mediated by both cognition related to Korea and emotions toward Korea. Thus, as well as the aforementioned stereotypical beliefs about Korea, we select a few emotions in addressing the effects of Chinese people’s uses of Korean mass media products.

Most previous studies in this area have addressed cognitive, rather than affective or emotional, processes (e.g. Fiske and Neuberg 1990; Hamilton 1981; McCauley et al. 1980). The area of intercultural communication research is no exception in that this field emphasizes the importance of ‘information seeking’ (Baldwin and Hunt 2002). However, Eagly and Chaiken (1993) put forth a ‘synergistic model,’ which emphasizes that affect and cognition operate ‘jointly to produce effects that are more attributable to their combination than to either one alone’ (423). Recent studies have supported this model by reporting that affect contributes to people’s attitudes toward out-groups (e.g. Jussim et al. 1995; Pettigrew 1997; Stangor et al. 1991; Stephan et al. 1994). Stephan et al., for instance, showed that affective variables have a role in predicting people’s attitudes. Emotional reactions to others strengthen the evaluative responses to the stereotypical beliefs about them. Likewise, Jussim et al. (1995) found that trait descriptions about a group influence emotions, which, in turn, determine attitude toward the group.

In addition, our study suggests that Chinese people’s emotions toward Korea precede their stereotypical beliefs about Korea. Our argument is based on cognitive appraisal theorists (e.g. Arnold 1960; Frijda 1993; Lazarus 1991). In contrast to the conception of emotion as independent of cognition (Zajonc 1982) or as reflecting each individual’s personality (Lasswell 1948), cognitive appraisal researchers assume that specific emotions are preceded by cognitive processes, such as beliefs about other people or groups and evaluations of the in-group’s position relative to the out-group (Lazarus 1991). For example, the role of cognition in forming emotions in an intergroup or intercultural context is well illustrated by case studies of non-Asian Americans’ emotions toward Asian Americans. Asians in the US are often considered to be competent, which can bring about a sense of threat and competition. These perceptions in turn likely produce unfavourable emotions toward them. That is, although many feel respect toward Asian Americans’ competence, Asian Americans can also become the object of fear or anger and thus be exposed to discrimination (Brewer and Brown 1998; Insko and Schopler 1998).


Our review of previous studies leads us to hypothesize that (1) Chinese use of Korean mass media products, as well as interpersonal contact with Koreans, will affect stereotypical beliefs about and emotions toward Korea; (2) Chinese emotions toward Korea will be affected by stereotypical beliefs held about Korea; and (3) Chinese attitudes toward Korea will be affected by stereotypical beliefs about and emotions toward Korea. The hypothesized relationships illustrated in Figure 5.1 can be specified as the following set of research questions.

Research Question 1. What is the relationship between a) Chinese consumption of Korean mass media products and b) Chinese people’s interpersonal contacts with Koreans and Chinese stereotypical beliefs about Korea (i.e. modernization and hospitality)?

Research Question 2. What is the relationship between a) Chinese consumption of Korean mass media products and b) Chinese people’s interpersonal contact with Koreans and Chinese emotions toward Korea (both positive and negative)?

Research Question 3. What is the relationship between a) Chinese consumption of Korean mass media products and b) Chinese people’s interpersonal contact with Koreans and Chinese attitudes toward Korea?

Figure 1 Research model


In the spring of 2003, with the help of the China Social Research Center in Beijing, we conducted face-to-face interviews with a sample of 1,000 Beijing residents, targeting those between 15 and 65 years of age, a cohort that comprises roughly 75 per cent of the city’s population4. For this study, quotas of gender and age were applied to the sampling procedure. Given the greater amount of time and expense required for interviews involving people over 50 years of age, we then decided to limit the quota of respondents between the ages of 40 and 50 to 15 per cent. Accordingly, a caveat should be taken about the generalizability of the data, but we assume that this will not severely harm the internal validity of estimating the coefficients for the relationships investigated in this study.

To measure the amount of exposure to Korean television dramas, we selected 14 Korean television dramas popular in China – such as The Model, Tomato, and What is Love? – and asked whether respondents had watched the entire series, more than half of the series, parts of the series, some episodes, or none of the listed dramas. Likewise, 14 Korean films, such as Warrior, Christmas in August, and Funny Movie, were selected to measure the amount of Korean film viewing,5 and to measure listening to Korean music, we asked respondents how many Korean music cassettes or CDs they had. On average, Beijing residents owned two Korean music cassettes or CDs.

To measure interpersonal contacts with Koreans the respondents were asked to answer the following questions: ‘How many Koreans did you meet during the previous week?’, ‘How many Korean friends do you have?’ and ‘How often do you meet your Korean friends?’ The responses were standardized and added up as a variable.

Stereotypical beliefs about Korea were measured along two axes: ‘modernization’ and ‘hospitality’. First, regarding the extent to which the Chinese think of Korean society as modernized, we used two 7-point semantic differential scales, with the following pairs of adjectives: ‘developed–undeveloped’ and ‘affluent–poor’. The hospitality of Korea was measured by asking respondents to present themselves on two 7-point semantic differential scales, with the following pairs of adjectives: ‘friendly–hostile’ and ‘warm–cold’. Chinese people’s emotions toward Korea were measured along the two dimensions of positive emotion and negative emotion. Positive emotion includes ‘respect’, ‘pride’, and ‘hope’, and negative emotion includes ‘contempt’, ‘anger’, and ‘disgust’, We chose these specific emotions because these are most frequently used by scholars of the cognitive appraisal theory of discrete emotions (e.g. Lazarus 1991). For each item, respondents were asked to present themselves on a five-point scale. The answers to each of the three items were added up. The mean for the positive emotion was 3.41 (SD = .69); the mean emotion, 2.19 (SD = .78).

The key dependent variable of interest, attitude toward Korea, was measured by asking respondents how favourable they were toward Korea. To assess social distance, respondents completed seven 7-point scale items (from 1 = ‘definitely no’ to 7 = ‘definitely yes’). The Bogardus items include ‘I would be willing to marry a Korean’, ‘I would enjoy having Koreans as my closest professional or business colleagues’, and ‘I would enjoy having Koreans as my elected officials’.6 The mean of this variable was 5.46, (SD = 1.56).

We controlled for a number of exogenous variables. Specifically, we included sex (52.1% females), age (15–19: 25.4%; 20–29: 34.9%; 30–39: 25.0%; over 40: 14.7%), education (median: some college education), and income (median household income between US$242 and US$363). All these controls have been shown to have an impact on attitudes toward foreign societies and foreigners (e.g. Jussim et al. 1995; McCauley et al. 1980; Pettigrew 1998).

Our regression models also include mass media use in general, which is assumed to precede and to influence the relationship between Chinese people’s Korean media product use and their beliefs, emotions, and attitudes toward Korea. We measured mass media use in general by asking respondents to report the frequency of their use of each mass media form, such as television, newspapers, and so on. Another control variable was ethnocentrism, which has been shown to influence attitude toward other peoples (e.g. Pettigrew 1997; Stephan and Rosenfield 1978; Stephan and Stephan 1992). Measure of ethnocentrism involved a mean index of five 5-point items that measured agreement with such statements as ‘The way of life in China is the best’; ‘People in other countries have to do as the Chinese do when they are in China’; and ‘The Chinese are superior to all other peoples’.



In order to examine the relationships outlined in our hypotheses we conducted a series of multiple regression analyses. First, some control variables showed significant association with stereotypical beliefs about Korea. In particular, media use in general was positively associated with beliefs about Korean modernization and hospitality. In addition, ethnocentrism turned out to be significant in accounting for stereotypical beliefs about modernization: the more ethnocentric respondents were, the more they tended to regard Korea as a modernized country.

Table 1 Hierarchical multiple regressions: Predicting stereotypical beliefs about Korea

Notes: N = 1,000; Final standardized beta for our regression coefficients were reported.

*p<.05. **p<.01. ***p<.001.


Table 2 Heirarchical multiple regressions: Predicting emotions toward Korea

Notes: N = 1.000; Cell entries are standardized regression coefficients.

* p<.05.    ** p<.01.   *** p<.001.

[Table 2 has been split into two parts for easier ebook reading.]


Table 3 Hierarchical multiple regressions: Predicting stereotypical beliefs about Korea

Notes: N = 998; Final Cell entries standardized regression coefficients.

*p<.05. **p<.01. ***p<.001.

[Table 3 has been split into two parts for easier ebook reading.]

As outlined earlier, one of the primary goals of this study is to examine whether Chinese consumption of Korean media products influences stereotypical beliefs about Korea. Table 5.1 suggests that the more respondents watched Korean TV dramas, the less likely they were to believe that Korea is a modernized and hospitable country. By contrast, those who listened to relatively significant amounts of Korean music more often believed that Koreans were honest. Finally, as a number of contact hypothesis theorists have suggested, Chinese who had frequent contact with Koreans were more likely to think of Korea as modernized and hospitable. The effect size of interpersonal contact was comparable to that of drama and music.


As presented in Table 5.2, ethnocentrism showed a significant association with negative emotions toward Korea. However, no comparable finding was detected for the effect of ethnocentrism on positive emotions. That is, ethnocentrism operated on negative emotions only. It seems that where ethnocentrism caused respondents to consider Korea’s modernization, it also triggered negative emotions toward Korea.

As for media consumption variables, Korean music contributed to positive emotions toward Korea, with much of the effect of Korean music possibly mediated by stereotypical belief variables.7 Likewise, Korean music survived to the final model predicting negative emotion.

As expected, Chinese beliefs about Korea’s level of modernization were negatively correlated with positive emotion toward Korea, but not significantly related to negative emotion. Also, Chinese beliefs about Korean hospitality were positively related to positive emotion toward Korea, whereas they were negatively correlated with negative emotion toward Korea. Overall, these results lend some support to our first hypothesis.


We hypothesized that Chinese beliefs about and emotions toward Korea would be related to attitudes toward Korea. As shown in Table 5.3, Chinese beliefs about Korean hospitality were positively related to attitudes toward Korea, whereas beliefs about Korean modernization failed to approach the conventional significance level in accounting for attitudes toward Korea. This means that our second hypothesis was partially supported. Chinese positive emotions toward Korea were found to be positively related to attitudes toward Korea. However, negative emotions toward Korea did not show comparable effects, indicating partial support for our third hypothesis that Chinese attitudes toward Korea are affected by stereotypical beliefs about and emotions toward Korea.


In this study we examined how cross-cultural mass communication influences the process by which cognition leads to emotion, and the process by which cognition and emotion influence attitudes. Our data provided some empirical support for the central ideas developed in this study. In addressing our hypotheses and research questions, we relied on cross-sectional data collected in Beijing, which raises a number of methodological issues that we need to address at least briefly. First, our study does not fully explicate the directional of causality. That is, one might question whether particular Chinese beliefs and attitudes foster the use of Korean media products, or whether Korean media product use promotes particular beliefs and attitudes. In order to answer this question, additional work, i.e. panel data analyses or experimental studies, are necessary. The causality in our study is less clear in that our survey respondents reported their beliefs and emotions at the time of data collection, and their media product use presumably reflected their experience of media use prior to that time. Second, we are faced with unavoidable questions about the generalizability of the data. Most notably, the localized nature of the sample to Beijing may limit its applicability to China as a whole. Given that the Korean Wave is in a state of continual evolution and that studies on this phenomenon are still exploratory, however, it is clear that our research gives some valuable insights about its cross-cultural communicative effects.


Three findings need to be highlighted here. First, Chinese people’s interpersonal contacts with Koreans were significant in accounting for their stereotypical beliefs about Korean society, and the effect size was comparable to that of the media consumption variable. Interpersonal contacts competed with media product consumption as a critical source of the formation of Chinese people’s beliefs, which eventually accounted for emotions and attitudes toward Korea. This finding seems compelling given that the frequency of interpersonal exchanges between the two countries at the time of data collection was not sufficient for the majority of respondents to form strong beliefs, emotions, and attitudes on this basis. Our data suggest that almost 80 per cent of the respondents encountered Koreans less than once per week on average.

Second, Chinese people did show mixed stereotypical beliefs about Korean society on two dimensions. Our results showed that Chinese people perceived Korean society as modernized but as relatively less friendly.8 This finding suggests that the two dimensions along which Chinese people evaluate Korean society are not orthogonal in the fashion predicted by Fiske and her colleagues (Cuddy et al. 2004; Fiske et al. 2002; Lin et al. 2005).

Third, as compared to the effect of Chinese consumption of Korean media products on their beliefs, the direct effect on emotions toward Koreans turned out to be rather limited in scope and size. One explanation for this can be seen in previous studies showing that emotions stem from direct experiences with other people rather than indirect exposure through mass media (e.g. Stangor et al. 1991). That is, it is relatively difficult for indirect social interactions through mass media product use to produce intense emotional responses.

In sum, the contribution of this study to our understanding of mass-mediated intercultural communication can be emphasized to the extent that the findings illuminate the complexity of the mass-mediated cross-cultural communication process and provide empirical support for our model of intercultural communication effects. One of the implications that can be drawn from this study is that the cross-cultural use of mass media products can lead to more nuanced understandings of other cultures and peoples. Mass-mediated interactions between two peoples seem to enhance understanding, increase identification, and even change attitudes. That is, media products such as dramas, films, and CDs, when utilized to a substantial extent, can indeed play an important role in promoting cross-cultural understanding.


As discussed earlier, two pathways generate attitude: cognitive and emotional. Along with the cognitive process, emotions should be considered important antecedents of an individual’s attitude toward other groups. Although a few previous studies considered emotions within their research models, they were limited in three ways. First, most such studies examined the cumulative effects or net effects of cognitive and emotional variables, with little attention to the relation between the two (Eagly and Chaiken 1993). With this limitation in mind, we have proposed a research model that shows how the two processes are related, finding that the effects of cognition on attitude are mediated by emotions.

Second, previous studies of the relationship between media use and emotions assumed a direct link between the two. However, under the assumption that people’s discrete emotions are produced as the result of cognitive processes, we examine how individuals react to media content emotionally, and conclude that the effects of Chinese consumption of Korean media products on emotions toward Korea are at least partially mediated by stereotypical beliefs held about Korean society and Koreans.

As for the external validity of our findings, although they are drawn from the experiences of a select group of Beijing residents, we believe that they are generally relevant to other settings in which two peoples come into contact with each other through the experience of media product consumption. The social psychological assumptions that we employed in this study are applicable to other conditions in which cognitive and emotional processes together mediate the formation and change of attitudes. Following the studies of Fiske and her colleagues, we have also explicitly employed cross-cultural assumptions regarding the functioning of stereotypical belief formation and its impacts on attitudes.

We suggest two areas for future research. First, the connection between media product consumption and stereotypical belief formation should be further explored to the extent that the latter may guide the former in such a way that it limits the repertoire of media product consumption, promotes certain genres of media products, and enhances elaborations and/or simplifications of media content. The literature on intercultural contexts reports that stereotypical beliefs encourage those who hold them to actively sort the information they have accessed (Hamilton 1981; Taylor and Crocker 1981), to pursue belief-confirming information (Devine and Baker 1991), and to infer thoughts and ideas related to their beliefs (Fiske 2002; Hamilton 1981; Taylor and Crocker 1981). We believe that understanding the functioning of stereotypical beliefs should illuminate complex patterns of media use in cross-cultural contexts.

Second, a closer look at cognitive antecedents as well as the consequences of emotions is called for to account for the subtle interactions between cognition and discrete emotions in the formation of attitudes in intercultural contexts. In this study, following Lazarus (1991), we only took advantage of the order of causality in the relationship between cognition and emotion suggested by the cognitive appraisal approach. However, modelling and testing a cognitive appraisal scheme for the mechanism by which cognition brings about a set of discrete emotions, such as fear, anger, happiness, and pride, may also be worthwhile. That is, stereotypical beliefs about other people might serve as elementary data for cognitive appraisal of the audience’s experiences with other cultures and peoples. The audience’s use of mass media might also contribute to this process of cognitive appraisal in such a way that interpretations of media content implicate different consequences for the audience’s appraisal scheme. Future studies from the perspective of the cognitive appraisal approach to emotion can effectively accommodate such theoretical concerns.


1   In this paper, we use the term ‘Korea’ and ‘Korean’ to refer exclusively to South Korea and South Korean.

2   An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual conference of International Communication Association, New York City, May 2005.

3   We use the term stereotype to refer to people’s enduring beliefs regarding any kind of attributes in out-groups (Ashmore and Del Boca 1981; Brigham 1971; Fiske and Neuberg 1990; McCauley et al. 1980). The term does not necessarily contain negative connotations as it frequently does in common sense conversations. We also use emotion in the broadest sense of the word in order to include positive and negative feelings as well as discrete emotions such as fear, surprise, anger, happiness, and pride. One may employ affect, as outlined by Fiske and Taylor (1991), to refer loosely to a variety of emotions. However, affect has often been used more restrictively in psychological literature in relation to preferences and valenced feelings (e.g. Izard 1977; Tomkins 1981; Zajonc 1980).

4   See

5   For the dramas, a mean index of 1 items (from 1 = ‘not watched’ to 5 = ‘watched entire series’) was obtained as the variable. The measure was an additive index of fourteen dichotomous items concerning whether the interviewees watched each film.

6   It is important to remember here that we are discussing South Koreans, not ethnic Koreans who are Chinese citizens.

7   See Pease elsewhere in this volume for more on the demographics of Chinese fans of Korean pop music.

8   8   The mean score for modernization was 5.30 (SD = 1.03) within the range of 1 to 7; the one for hospitality 5.03 (SD = 1.20). The difference between the mean scores was statistically significant with the t-score of 10.41 (df = 999, p < .001).


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Cite this chapter as: Rhee, June Woong; Lee, Chul-joo. 2010. ‘Cross-cultural interactions through mass media products: Cognitive and emotional impacts of Chinese people’s consumption of Korean media products’. In Complicated Currents: Media Flows, Soft Power and East Asia, edited by Black, Daniel; Epstein, Stephen; Tokita, Alison. Melbourne: Monash University ePress. pp. 5.1–5.16.


©Copyright 2010 June Woong Rhee and Chul-joo Lee

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Complicated Currents

   by Daniel Black, Stephen Epstein and Alison Tokita