Silver screen sorting: Social identity and selective exposure in popular film viewing

Jeremiah J. Castle, Kyla Stepp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


While research in media and politics has long stressed the importance of television, the political impact of movies has largely been ignored. However, a small body of literature suggests that both political docudramas and popular films may have the capacity to change the issue attitudes of viewers. Building on that work, this paper examines the potential for selective exposure in movie viewership. We develop a theory that there is large-scale sorting into popular movies rooted in social identity theory. We argue that sorting is a result of two processes: film studios marketing films towards particular social groups and individuals sorting into films based on social group characteristics. We test this theory using a unique dataset in which undergraduate students were asked to rate trailers for a variety of political docudramas and popular films. Our results indicate that there is indeed widespread sorting into popular films on the basis of social identities rooted in socio-demographic traits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487-499
Number of pages13
JournalSocial Science Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Films
  • Movies
  • Public opinion
  • Selective exposure
  • Social identity


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