Belief in a Werther Effect: Third-Person Effects in the Perceptions of Suicide Risk for Others and the Moderating Role of Depression

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Abstract

Werther Effect research has almost solely focused on the behavioral level of media effects. Clinically relevant predispositions like depression as well as the moderating role of media effects on a perceptional level have been omitted so far. To bridge this gap, we reanalyzed the data of an experiment conducted by Rustad, Small, Jobes, Safer, and Peterson: volunteer students’ ratings for their self-risk of depression and suicide as well as their perceptions of others’ suicide risk were investigated. While a Werther Effect could not be observed, there is a general overestimation of media influences on others—presumed Werther Effects—that are moderated by the personal degree of depression.

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