World of Media (Dec 2021)

Royally represented or royally shafted? Effect of positive and negative captions and ideological beliefs on readers’ evaluations of Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle

  • Anita A. Azeem,
  • John A. Hunter,
  • Ted Ruffman

Journal volume & issue
no. 4
pp. 5 – 32


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We conducted a randomized controlled experiment to investigate the role of descriptive captions (positively and negatively worded) and ideological beliefs (Right Wing Authoritarianism and Social Dominance Orientation) on viewers’ evaluations of two popular British Royal family members namely Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton. Participants included 300 undergraduate students from Dunedin, New Zealand who were randomly assigned to one of the four conditions: (1) Pro-Kate, (2) Anti-Kate, (3) Pro-Meghan or (4) AntiMeghan captions accompanying the parallel images of these Royal members. We also included several distractor variables about other Royal family members and traditions. Outcomes were recorded as evaluations of six royal members (Charles, Diana, William, Harry, Kate, and Meghan). We found no significant effect of caption manipulation on outcome evaluations of Meghan and Kate. However, social dominance negatively correlated with Meghan and Harry whereas authoritarianism positively correlated with ratings of Charles. Our results indicate that a one-off exposure to biased media regarding celebrities may not significantly alter audience’s evaluations of them, but ideological beliefs may influence this process, nonetheless.