PERSONALITY TRAITS, PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAUMA, AND SELECTIVE EXPOSURE TO GUN VIOLENCE IN THE MEDIA
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In the United States, gun violence is prevalent not only in the media but also in reality. Decades of research has focused on the effects of media violence on its audience, especially aggression.However, studies have shown that individual characteristics can also affect their tendency to select or avoid certain media content for consumption. This study examined how personality traits (i.e., sensation seeking, aggressiveness, and neuroticism), psychological trauma from gun violence in the real world (along with two potential mediators: mental health and anticipated distress), and psychological trauma from gun violence in the mediated world independently affect selective exposure to gun violence in the media. Regression results from a survey of 231 college undergraduate students provided partial support for sensation seeking, aggressiveness, and psychological trauma from gun violence in the mediated world (entertainment and social media in particular) as significant predictors of selective exposure to gun violence in the media. Although 14.7% of the participants reported having direct and personal exposure to gun violence and 67.5% reported having indirect exposure to gun violence, most participants indicated not having been negatively affected by such exposure. Therefore, psychological trauma from gun violence in the real world was not a significant predictor of their selective exposure to gun violence in the media. Mediation analyses on mental health and anticipated distress were not significant either. Lessons from this pilot study may inform future research design and implementation among people who actually suffer from psychological trauma due to their exposure to gun violence.