The Influence of the Self-Regulatory Focus on the Effectiveness of Media Based on Analysis of Perception of the Public on the Issues of North Korea

The Influence of the Self-Regulatory Focus on the Effectiveness of Media Based on Analysis of Perception of the Public on the Issues of North Korea



The connectivity of the Internet has contributed to the expansion of the influence of local events across national border lines.  As such, events once limited to a certain region are now being shared by audience worldwide and are used to form perceptions and views on related issues.  Political views people possess on certain issues have been a frequent subject of research; however, perceptions – such as fear, immanency, indifference, or disbelief – have been less so.  Although a political view is a significant factor in predicting policy changes or outcomes of an issue that enjoys worldwide media coverage, perception of the public can strongly tilt the direction of important issues because perception influences the interest and media needs of the public, which, in turn, determines the issues covered by the media and how those will be portrayed.

Despite the call for factual reporting and journalistic objectivity, a wide range of media bias exists and seems to be inevitable, especially in major media platforms.  Moreover, the influence of media on public perception has been repeatedly proven by numerous researchers. Major media companies worldwide have a firm grip on shaping the perception of the public based on their wide audience base.  On the other hand, personal tendency, inclination, and character play an important role in determining perception one maintains on a topic of interest or issue.  As such, this Study begins at the junction where the interaction between perception and the media is being created.


Subject and Purpose of the Study

Because the effectiveness of the media and its message can only be examined by analyzing perception and cognition of the audience, this Study brings in the audience of major media companies worldwide as its subject of analysis.

To examine the difference between perception and cognition according to audience characteristic and types of media coverage, this Study has selected the extensive media coverage on North Korea and war-related issues since early 2017.  The issue of North Korea, which has been at the center of worldwide attention, posits an interesting question about the interaction between the media and its audience because the perception of South Koreans and that of the audience who receive related information solely from the media coverage significantly diverge.  As such, the issue of North Korea is an excellent example that can be used to examine the influence of personal inclination on perception and cognition in relation to the media and its message.

This Study aims to examine the influence of the Self-Regulatory Focus on the effectiveness of media.  To do so, this Study analyzes perception of the public on the issues of North Korea.  Based on the results, this Study is planned to provide strategies that media outlets can consider and apply in order to meet the regulatory focus of a target audience within a particular geographic region or with a specific cultural background.  As the result of this Study will show, the compatibility between the regulatory focus of a particular audience and the message of the media increases the effectiveness of the media and its message and influences the perception of the targeted audience.  As such, this Study is expected to provide practical insights into the ways for increasing effectiveness of the media message and for influencing the audience’s perception and cognition toward a particular issue.


Theoretical Framework

Thus, this Study uses Regulatory Focus Theory (RFT) to examine chronic regulatory focus of South Koreans established through culture and socialization and that of people who are exposed to the issue solely via the media coverage.  Regulatory Focus Theory (RFT), developed by Higgins (1997), suggests that two distinct forms of self-regulation exist: promotion-focused self-regulation and prevention-focused self-regulation.  Individuals with a promotion-focused self-regulation are concerned with obtaining improved states and emphasize advancement and growth.  Individuals with prevention-focused self-regulation, on the other hand, focus on maintaining a current state that is satisfactory.  Thus, prevention-focused individuals are sensitive to the absence or presence of negative outcomes while emphasizing security and safety.  Although regulatory focus varies across individuals and situations, chronic regulatory focus can be attained and established through culture and socialization for instance (Higgins et al., 2013).


Research Questions

This Study aims to answer the following research questions:

  1. Does a person’s attitude and perception toward the issue of North Korea differ depending on whether a person has prevention-focused or promotion-focused self-regulatory predilection?
  2. Does a person’s self-regulatory predilection is influenced by the message and political attitude of the media outlet one is exposed to?
  3. Does the media have a different way of approaching its audience based on the audience’s self-regulatory predilection?


Research Methods

Research Subjects

Media Companies

This Study has selected major media companies from five different countries in order to examine the influence of self-regulatory focus on the perception and cognition related to the issues of North Korea.  In particular, CNN, BBC, CCTV, NHK, and KBS World have been selected because, in essence, each media company represents one of the largest media providers of each country while having extensive audience base worldwide.  In addition, the media companies provide information in English that is easily accessible through the Internet and other types of media outlet.

More specifically, CNN has special correspondents located in Pyeongyang.  CNN is also distinguishable as CNN provides detailed information on the current situation and development of issues in North Korea.  In terms of BBC, as one of the major media outlets in Europe, BBC provides information that summarizes the views of various European countries, which is accessible in English and through the Internet.  Next, CCTV, as the largest media outlet of China, has been selected because it represents a distinguished view on the issue of North Korea.  Lastly, NHK transmits information in English and provides valuable information on the issue of North Korea shared by the people in Japan, which is geographically proximate to the Korean Peninsula.

In this Study, the contents and general direction of the message provided by the media outlets will be collected, analyzed, and summarized in order to be used as prompts and stimulus for the subjects of this Study.  Specifically, the media types will be divided based on whether their narrative is promotion-oriented or prevention-oriented.  This is to correspond the type of self-regulatory focus the Study subjects would exhibit as explained below.

Individual Subjects

In order to answer the above research questions, this Study will select three subjects from each country that the subject media companies are located (South Korea, United States, China, Japan, and United Kingdom).  Three individuals from each country will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • The subject is familiar with the issue of North Korea and has a basic understanding of the issue, yet has not exposed oneself to the information provided by the media that is foreign to him or her.
  • The subject possesses only one of the following self-regulatory focus predilection for the particular issue in this Study: prevention-focused or promotion-focused.

Measuring Regulatory Focus

Various methods have been employed to measure promotion- or prevention-focused self-regulatory predilections.  For instance, Higgins et al. (1994) have used the framework of self-discrepancy theory (Higgins, 1987) in order to measure regulatory focus based on the assumption that when individuals consider the goals they want to achieve (i.e. the ideal self-guide), a promotion focus is induced, while the ought self-guide (i.e. things they should be doing) induces a prevention focus.  Mainly, procedures assessing the accessibility of aspirations or duties exist (Sassenberg, Ellemers, & Scheepers, 2012), while a different type of measurement is based on self-report (Higgins, et al., 2001; Jordan & Kunda, 2002).  In this Study, subjects will be asked to specify the attributes toward which they feel aspired to exhibit or obliged to exhibit.  This method is often used to gauge the regulatory focus of individuals (Molden & Higgins, 2008).  In addition, the Regulatory Focus Questionnaire, developed by Higgins, Friedman, Harlow, Idson, Ayduk, and Taylor (2001), will be used to identify the subjects’ self-regulatory focus.

Data Collection via In-Depth Interviewing

Also, in this Study, the method of in-depth interviewing will be used because, according to Marshall and Rossman (1999), it is one of the four typical methods that the qualitative researchers typically employ in order to gather information.  The method is especially useful for the purpose of this Study because in-depth interviewing employs the qualitative methodologies of observations and thick descriptions, while allowing the researcher to dive into an individual’s personal characteristics, backgrounds, and behavior influences one’s perception and cognition on a particular issue.