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Perceptions of Programming: Cultivation and Third Person Influences on College Students by Suzette Marie Fisher A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts School of Mass Communications College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Kenneth C. Killebrew, Ph.D. Edward Jay Friedlander, Ed.D. Randy E. Miller, Ph.D. Date of Approval: July 7, 2008 Keywords: contemporary society, cultivation analysis, mean world syndrome, thirdperson effect, cultural indicators Copyright 2008, Suzette Marie Fisher
ii Table of Contents Abstract iii Chapter 1: Introduction 1 Chapter 2: Literature Review 6 Television and Contemporary Society 6 Cultivation Analysis 7 Cultural Indicators 9 Violence Profile 14 Television is Still the Dominant Force 15 Collecting Observations from Individuals 15 The Mean World Syndrome 16 The Psychology of Television 16 Television Viewing by Young Children 17 Portrayal of Social Roles 17 Third-Person Effect 20 Studies 23 Chapter 3: Methodology 27 Chapter 4: Results 32 Chapter 5: Conclusions 46 References 54 Appendices 57 Appendix: Transcripts 58
iii Perceptions of Programming: Cultivation and Third Person Influences on College Students Suzette Marie Fisher ABSTRACT There have been many studies conducted on television and its effects. Since the 1950s, when television emerged, there has b een an influx of patterns and behaviors associated with television viewing and pr ogramming. Many researchers are fascinated with television and the reactions of thos e who are directly affected by it. People have been known to act out in many ways as a result of something they saw on television. Many believe that television viewing directly aff ects a persons mind. An analysis of the results of this qua litative study indicates that college students perceive television ha s an impact on viewers. Thro ughout the course of both the focus group and individual interviews, seve ral themes were strongly developed among participants. These included: 1. College students do not believe that television influences the way they individually dress, act, and eat, but it does influen ce the same behaviors of other people their age. However, th ese same students reported that they recognized that television has an influe nce on their lives, and in combination with how they were raised in their families, it made them who they are today. 2. College students continue to believe there is too much violence on television. 3. Television often does not depict reality.
1 Chapter 1: Introduction Television is an integral part of Amer ican culture. Americans can tune into television with the push of a button. It is an extremely easy way to be informed, entertained, and educated. Television is th e main source of information on national and world events for most of us (Philo, 1990) In terms of psychological influence, television might have little or no impact if only a few people pay relatively little attention to it. But the opposite is th e case: Just about everybody wa tches some television, it has almost universal appeal (Condry, 1989). As Condry states, Television is what television does: entertain, inform, and persuade. Television is a device, invented in the mid-1920s, capable of sending a picture with sound over the broadcast band. Televi sion is an industry grown up around the use of the device and regulated (more or less) by the federal government. Television is the content of what it shows every minute of ever y day: the programs and the commercials. Television is all of these things, and it has th e potential to be even more (Condry, 1989). When television programming came about the purpose for it was to provide viewers with informative, entertaining, and e ducational programs. The receiver soon dominated the early television home. It usua lly went in the living room and became the center of attention for the family, and thei r non-television owning fr iends (Sterling and Kittross, 2002). Families would gather ar ound the one television set in the house and watch programs together. Television time wa s a special time in American households
2 when parents and teenagers c ould enjoy wholesome, humor ous, and even inspirational television shows that portrayed the American fa mily as a solid unit. This thesis will explore the effects of tele vision on college students. The idea of television programming influencing the American family to act as a solid unit and bring parents cl oser to their teenagers is great; however, it is not an accurate depiction of todays ty pical American family. In the early days of television, viewers were not exposed to the same types of situations that pres ent viewers are exposed to. In fact, television program ming today creates a gap between parents and teenagers. It is difficult for parents and teenagers to a ssociate with one anot her because certain television programs are strictly appealing to parents, while some are strictly appealing to teenagers. Madonna took a stand against the excesses of todays popular cu lture for children. As a young single adult, this woman (Madonna ) reveled in edgy music videos and the freedom of living without inhibition. But, as a married parent of two children, she has become hostile to a popular culture that underm ines her efforts to instill a strong moral sense in her children. So now she forbids television and w ont let her children watch a video until she has approved it (Whitehead, 2005). Millions of other parents share the Materi al Girls view of the effects of popular culture on children. They object to its violen ce, materialism, and misogyny (Whitehead, 2005). Because of the wide gap in television programs, it has become more and more difficult for parents to see eye to eye with their teenagers. Parents rarely associate with the programs that their teenag ers are viewing, and teenager s do not want to watch the
3 programs that their parents are watching. Th is gap spreads wider and wider due to the fact that the typical Ameri can household has more than one television set making it easy for multiple program viewing at any given time. Some of the television programs that ar e geared towards college students depict life in a way that seems unrealistic to say the least. College students who are susceptible to these programs can become irritated or a nnoyed with their own lives because their own lives arent as glamorous or os tentatious as those depicted on television. This can lead to the widening gap between what college student s deem as appropriate behavior and what their parents have been trying to embed in them. The typical American household has more than one television set. By 1960, almost ninety percent of American homes had a television set that was, at that time, on for an average of more than five hours a day (Condry, 1989). Since most households have more than one television set, young a dults may view programs with privacy and without their parents interference. The pr oblem with this modern day convenience is that parents hardly monito r what their young adults are watching. While many believe that having more than one televi sion set in a household is esse ntial, it can be detrimental to a young adults view of what is appropriate behavior and what is not. Parents should be able to monitor what their young adults ar e watching, and as a result, set some viewing guidelines. This thesis will explore the notion th at television programs can alter college students perceptions of viol ence, alcohol, sexual situations self-image, and even their eating habits. Since the early 1950s, there ha ve been several analyses of the program content of television most of which have focused on the programs aired during prime-
4 time. Although some of the early studies were of a more general nature, most of these descriptions of the world of television have focused primarily on the violent content of television drama (Condry, 1989). Violence depicted on televi sion has increased to the extent that many studies have been done on its effects in people's lives. Violence as shown on television is not limited to movies and police dramas. It enters into the documentaries, cartoons, news and sports show s as well. This is a problem for college students where television ha s become a nightly ritual. Alcohol is the most common and important drug on television being mentioned in eighty percent of prime-time programs, and places where alcohol is consumed are frequently the centerpiece of action (as, for example, in a bar) (Condry, 1989). Television programs depict alc ohol consumption as sophisticat ed and mature. This might lead college students to thi nk that by consuming alcohol, th ey become more mature and wiser in the eyes of others. As a result, they might feel more accepted by their peers. Television ads for alcohol are very prevalent in programming. College students probably see more advertisements for al cohol than anything else. This thesis will also try to validate th at there are many sexual situations in the television programming that colle ge students view. Some students watch a great deal of programming, and there has been a steady incr ease in the frequency and explicitness of sexual content on broadcast television. In some situations on television, sex is deemed as something that people in committed relationships share. Unfortunately, in many other situations, that is not the case. A college students self image can have positive or negative effects on his/hers self worth. For this reason, it might be a good idea for them to know that the body
5 images that they see on television are not the norm for most young adults. Most young adult female actors do not portray normal body size; instead, they ar e abnormally thin. Most male actors also look perfect, and this se ems to be another discrepancy in terms of self-image. This thesis hopes to disc over relationships between the programs college students watch and how those programs may influence their eating habits. College students who are constantly watching television can resort to eating food that is no t necessarily healthy. This trend of not eating nutri tionally balanced meals can cau se many health problems in college students, obesity being one of them Children, ages 8 to 18, spend more time (44.5 hours per week) in front of computer, television, and game screens than any other activity in their lives except sleeping (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2005). Approximately 30.3% of childre n (ages 6 to 11) are overw eight and 15.3% are obese. For teens (12 to 19) the rate is almost identical: 33.4% overweight, and 15.5% obese (American Obesity Association, 2006). By adding to previous research and trying to corroborate a correlation among college students, this thes is should contribute to th e ongoing study of how television programs can alter college students perceptions of violence, alcohol sexual situations, self-image, and eating habits.
6 Chapter 2: Literature Review Television and Contemporary Society Television has been an integr al part of American house holds for many years; as a result, there have been many studies conducte d on television and c ontemporary society. This literature review discusses cultiva tion analysis and thir d-person effect. There is a love-hate relationship betw een television and contemporary society. Parents, teachers, academics, politicians, mora l guardians, social critics, those who work in the medium, and those who simply watch it without thinking about it, have all offered a vast array of charges, c ounter-charges, complaints, defenses, interpretations and opinions about just what this device is and what it may be doing to us and our children (Shanahan, 1999). If we consider the impact of network television on the majority of American viewers, one observation would be that wa tching television is the national spectator sport (Sklover, 1973). Television, both technology and institu tion, has changed on many levels in the past fifty years, yet the public debates it propels often sound like a broken record but one that is going faster and faster (Shanahan, 1999). It se ems that educators and parents alike complain about children watching too much television and imitating the inappropriate behavior that is advertised on television. Tel evision, both as technology
7 and institution, has changed on many levels in the past fifty years, yet the public debates it propels often sound like a broken record but one that is goi ng faster and faster. Each new crop of parents and teachers sings the same refrain about zombie-eyed, anemic children wasting too much time watching televi sion, imitating the aggressive behavior of whatever super-heroes currently adorn bed sh eets and lunchboxes, having no attention span in the classroom, and so on (Shanahan, 1999). Some years ago, Michael Novak offered a refreshingly simple way to frame the question of how television might affect us If you practice the craft of writing diligently you begin to think and perceive differently. If you run for twenty minutes a day, your psyche is subtly transformed. If you work in an executive office, you begin to think like an executive. And, if you watch six hours of television, on the aver age, every day ? (Shanahan, 1999) In other words, our world is influenced by how we spend our time. Novak claims since we watch as much televi sion as we do, we should not be surprised that television can and will influence how we think. Cultivation Analysis George Gerbners original conception of cultivation was nothing less than an attempt to alter the nature of the conven tional academic discourse about social and cultural implications of ma ss communication (Shanahan, 1999) Gerbners plan was to develop an approach to mass communication different from persuasion and propaganda research. He wanted to do away with the traditional research approaches. Developments in communication have ex tended the human ability to exchange messages and have transformed the symbolic environment of human consciousness. Perhaps the most profound dilemma is that ju st as knowledge can be said to confer
8 power, so power generates and uses knowle dge for its own purposes. Social and institutional structures (governments, br oadcasting networks, pub lishing houses, and educational institutions) have a steadily increasing role in shaping the symbolic environment (Gerbner, 1977). The message systems of a culture not only inform but form common images. They not only entertain but create publics. They not only satisfy but shape a range of attitudes, tastes, and preferences. They provide the boundary c onditions and overall patterns within which the processes of personal and group-mediated selection, interpretation, and image-forma tion go on (Gerbner, 1977). Cultivation analysis begins with the insights of the st udy of institutions and the message systems they produce and goes on to investigate the contributions that these systems and their symbolic functions make to the cultivation of assumptions about life and the world (Gerbner, 1977). Cultivation analysis is field of research that has allowed many researchers to conduct thorough assessments of television in relation to its effects on viewers. Cultivation analysis is the study of televi sions independent contribution to viewers conceptions of social reality (Shanahan, 1999). In practice, cultiv ation analysis uses survey research methods to assess the diffe rence amount of television viewing makes (if any), other things held consta nt, to a broad variety of opi nions, images and attitudes, across a variety of samples, types of measur es, topical areas and intervening variables (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan and Signorielli, 1994) In other words, the central idea behind cultivation research is that those people w ho spend a lot of time watching television are more likely to perceive the real world in wa ys that reflect the most common and recurrent
9 messages of the television wo rld, compared to people who watch less television but are otherwise comparable in terms of import ant demographic characteristics (Shanahan, 1999). Ever since the first results of cultivat ion analysis were published in the late seventies, many studies have explored, de fended, and critiqued the assumptions and methodological procedures that go along with cu ltivation analysis. Although cultivation analysis may once have been closely identified with the issue of vi olence, over the years, researchers have looked at a br oad range of topics, includi ng sex roles, ag ing, political orientations, the family, environmental atti tudes, science, heal th, religion, minorities, occupations and othe rs (Shanahan, 1999). Despite criticism, cultivation theory remains an informative theoretical mode of research emphasis. Newhagen and Lewenstein said, the social implications of the idea that a mass medium can define our culture ar e too important to dismiss (Newhagen and Lewenstein, 1992). Even though not all comm unication scholars agree, cultivation studies have been great in contributing to the scientific and public understanding of media and its effects. Cultivation is about the im plications of stable, repetitive, pervasive and virtually inescapable patterns of images and ideologi es that television (especially dramatic, fictional entertainment) provide s (Shanahan, 1999). It sees television as a system of messages. From those messages over long pe riods of time, viewer s are affected. Cultural Indicators Cultivation analysis is one component of a long-term, ongoing research program called Cultural Indicators. The concept of a cultural indicator was developed by
10 Gerbner as a complement to the more common id ea of an economic or social indicator, a kind of barometer of important cultural i ssues (Gerbner, 1969, 1974). In the United States, Cultural Indicators research has focu sed mostly on the implications of growing up and living with television, sin ce it is the countrys most wide ly shared cultural agency and most visible disseminator of cultural symbols (Shanahan, 1999). The project was developed as a three-pa rt research framework for investigating the structure, contours, and consequences of pervasive symbol systems, premised on three global, interrelated questions: 1. What are the processes, pressures, and c onstraints that influe nce and underlie the production of mass media content? 2. What are the dominant, aggregate patterns of images, messages, facts, values and lessons expressed in media messages? 3. What is the relationship between atten tion to these messages and audiences conceptions of social reality? (Shanahan, 1999) It is interesting to see that the answer to any one of the three questions is seen as having tremendous implications for the ot her two questions. Early on, Gerbner maintained that the effects of communication are not to be found in short-term attitude or behavior change, but in the history and dynamics of th e reciprocal relationships between the structure of the institutions which produce media messages, the message systems themselves, and the image structures which are embedded within a culture (Shanahan, 1999). The history of television research dates back almost to the time when television sets were first introduced to our culture. Studies on the behavior s of those who owned
11 television sets produced many valuable insi ghts. Since television was spreading so rapidly, however, these kinds of studies main ly described novelty effects accompanying the adoption of the new medium; they told us little about what television means in a society when most people have grown up living with its stories (Shanahan, 1999). Once cultivation research surfaced, we were able to see that it is more than an abstract conceptualiza tion of an interesting question. R ather, we see cultivation as a critical theory of communicati on, insofar as it subjects the institution of television and mass communication to an investigation whic h can show the dimensions of important problems and even suggest ways to fix them (S hanahan, 1999). It is a great tool used in critical social science research. If cultivation is a critical theory, it is a theory of medias role in social control. That is, it examines how media are used in social systems to build consensus (if not agreement) on positions through shared term s of discourse and assumptions about priorities and values (Shanahan, 1999). Gerbner once stated Cultivation is what a culture does, because culture is the basic medium in which humans live and learn. Culture is a system of stories and other artificats-increasingly mass-producedth at mediates between existence and consciousness of existence, and thereby cont ributes to both (Gerbner, 1972). It is because of this that messages sent are more contingent with the views of the organizations that produce them instead of the views of individua ls. Television is perfectly poised to play a cr ucial role in the cultivation of common and specific images, beliefs, values, and ideo logies (Shanahan, 1999).
12 There are five ideas that specify how cu ltivation adds to pr ocesses of social control. The first is we assume that in stitutions of mass comm unication are owned by social, cultural, and primarily economic el ites. Cultivation researchers are most concerned with the aspects of a media system in which ownership and access are limited and tightly controlled (Shanahan, 1999). The second is social and economic elites codify messages in their media which serve elite aims (Shanahan, 1999). There is no t a clear correlation th at tells us if the messages of television are in agreement with the measured ideological positions of message producers. This proposition can be controversial, particularly for those who see the American media culture moving in a more democratic, diversified, and demographically segmented direction (Shana han, 1999). It is espe cially controversial for those who see media as controlled by ma rket forces and protected by the First Amendment because it can be maddeningly perv erse to suggest that social elites somehow use the media for thei r own purposes (Shanahan, 1999). Shanahan and Morgan are not asserting that there is a conspiracy of trilateralcommission one-worlders somehow getting th eir message through to a duped public. They suggest that dominant cultural instit utions, clearly serving economic elites, are systemically structured so as to most of ten favor the viewpoints and information that would help those economic elites in the long run (Shanahan, 1999). The third idea is the tendency for media messages to conform to elite needs and desires can be revealed through empirical stud ies (Shanahan, 1999). This merely states that messages have the tendency to reveal systems and patterns when they are tested empirically. Gerbner has noted that analysis of televisions message systems (content)
13 provides clues to cultivation. Cultivation analysis must therefore be grounded in real data about over-arching content patt erns, shared by large groups over long periods of time (Shanahan, 1999). The fourth idea is that audience member s, whether or not they are seeking to fulfill individual needs, participate in a social process in which they hear and internalize messages of social elites (Shanahan, 1999). This is the key proposition for cultivation as a theory of social control (Shanahan, 1999). The suggestion here is that audiences frequently get messages from message systems that have been structured to reflect the interests of social elites (Shanahan, 1999). Shanahan and Morgan say that any absorption of meaning from that process is different than straight persuasion. Cultivation assumes that massive attenti on to television results in a slow, steady, and cumulative internalization of aspects of those messages, especially the aspects with ideological import (Shanahan, 1999). This id ea does not imply that aims of social elites will be universally accep ted by viewers, but it does sugg est that social elites have and excellent resource with which to color public discussion of so cial, political, and economic issues (Shanahan, 1999). As a resu lt, cultivation argues that an important outcome of our media system is that social elites can play a disproportionate role in determining the boundaries of soci al discourse (Shanahan, 1999). The fifth idea is that audience members more committed to media will have belief structures more consonant with those desired by social elites (Shanahan, 1999). This proposition is the one most directly tested by cultivatio n analysis: viewership (for example, exposure to television) is related to belief structures, under the assumption that more time spent with an elite-dominated media system reflects:
14 (1) a willingness to accept the propositions within those media as useful, and (2) a tendency to accept the pr opositions within those media as, in some sense, factual or credible or normal. This idea is directly susceptible to empirica l analysis, and so has been the key focus of Cultural Indicators research and especi ally cultivation (Shanahan, 1999). Gerbner and his team limit their anal ysis of TV violence to dramatic entertainment programming which means that news, documentaries, variety, and quiz shows and sports programs are excluded duri ng coding (Gunter, 1985). Gerbner and his team use the following definition of violence while analyzing: the overt expression of physical force (with or without a weapon) agai nst self or other, compelling action against ones will on pain of being hurt or killed, or actually hurting or ki lling (Gerbner, 1972). Violence Profile With the previously mentioned definition to guide them, a team of trained coders are employed to record such features as th e frequency and nature of violent acts, the perpetrators and victims of violence, and th e temporal and spatial settings in which the acts occurred (Gunter, 1985). The Viole nce Profile is derived from certain combinations of the measurements. It purpo rts to represent an obj ective and meaningful indicator of the amount of violence por trayed in TV drama (Gunter, 1985). The Violence Profile consists of two sets of indicators: the Violence Index and the Risk Ratios. The amount of violence occu rring on TV is repres ented directly by the Violence Index. Essentially this index repres ents the percentage of programs containing any violence at all, the frequency and rate of violence episodes per program and per hour, and the number of leading charac ters involved in violence e ither as aggressors or as
15 victims. The Risk Ratios signify a character s chances of involvement in violence in TV drama programming and, once involved, the likelihood of positive or negative consequences for him or her (Gunter, 1985). There are three reasons why there have been more links between cultivation and television than cultivation and other media. First, overall amount of exposure to television dwarfs the use of most other media for most people (Shanahan, 1999). People spend more time on averag e with television than with any other media. Second, exposure to television begins be fore we first use most othe r media (Shanahan, 1999). It is an accurate representation that most people have been watching television since before they could read or speak. Third, te levision is more available and accessible than most other media (Shanahan, 1999). Since wa tching television does not require literacy, it is easier for many to watch televisi on rather than read a newspaper. Gerbner and Gross argued that televisi on is different from other media in its centralized mass-production and r itualistic use of a coherent set of images and messages produced to appeal to virtually the entire population (Shanahan, 1999) Television is still the dominant force behind stories and me ssages that are shared among the lines of class, gender, and race. Cultivation analysis should always begin by identifying the most recurrent and stable patterns in television content, empha sizing the consistent im ages, portrayals, and values that cut across most pr ogram genres (Shanahan, 1999). Cultivation is measured by collecting observations from individuals. This presents some conceptual and theoretical problems, though these problems are common in social science and not unique to cultiva tion (Shanahan, 1999). It is not easy to
16 measure the reactions that individuals have to television messages without taking data from those individuals. The Mean World Syndrome The Mean World Syndrome is one of the main effects of the Cultivation Theory. It occurs when heavy viewers see the world a much nastier place than do light viewers (Greunke, 2000). This, theorists attribute to the fact that te levision depicts the world as a mean and violent place and therefor e, heavy viewers are overly frightened and too cautious of the real world (Phillips, 1999). Gerbner believes this may have something to do with Americas polic y on capital punishment (Stossel, 1997). In terms of psychological influence, te levision might have little or no impact if only a few people pay relatively little attention to it. But, the opposite is th e case: Just about everybody watches some television, it has almost universal appeal (Condry, 1989). Since different types of people wa tch different types of programs throughout different times in a given day, they are expos ed to dissimilar information in terms of programming. Most of the re search on television content is conducted during the primetime viewing hours because that is th e time that most viewers tune in. Television informs, persuades, and entert ains. The content of television is drama, soap opera, religion, game show, news situation comedy, sports, advertisements, promotions for upcoming material, p ublic service announcements, and so forth (Condry, 1989). Since television content is constantly changi ng, it is difficult to define. There are numerous reasons for the change in content. "The most important of which is that the audience is easily bore d and the industry must keep gathering and
17 holding the audience. The audience is attach ed, via the ratings services, to a feedback loop reaching into the corporate offices of the industry whose job it is to program the device. In a real sense, the content of television is respons ive to the changing tastes and prejudices of the audience (Condry, 1989). In 1961, to the consternation of network executives, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Newt on Minow, complained that television is a vast wasteland. Whether or not that was true (or still is), tr ying to get a fix on the content of television is a little like trying to map the de sert. The winds of change are constantly blowing, and much of what was true at one time will not be true a short time later (Condry, 1989). By all accounts, children begin watchi ng television as a steady habit at around the age of 2 (Anderson and Levin, 1976), alth ough there is some evidence that children are aware of some things about television, a nd like it, as early as 6 months of age (Hollenbeck and Slaby, 1979). A recent study de monstrated that in fants not only watch television, but they can imita te it as well (Condry, 1989). Not only does the habit of watching televi sion begin very early in life, but it also continues to hold the attenti on and interests of people we ll into old age (Condry, 1989). It is easy to make the assumption that tele vision is a relevant mainstay in American households. It is the pure essence of entert ainment within a house hold. Television does not discriminate among age groups. Ther e is enough television to go around and entertain various age groups. Violence is not the only distortion of the content of television, but it is the most heavily studied (Condry, 1989). In addition to violence, the content of television
18 drama distorts the distribution of individua ls by sex, occupation and race (Signorielli, 1987). What is the impact of television exposure on sex-role attitudes? Several researchers have tried to answer this question, and the findings are mixed (Condry, 1989). In 1974, Beuf studied sex-typed o ccupational choices and found that heavy viewers made more stereotyped choices. In 1975, Freuh and McGhee looked at preference for sex-typed activities among hea vy and light viewers and found that heavy viewers were more sex typed in their respons es to the questions on the it test (a psychological measure of sex roles). Volgy and Schwartz found in 1980 more sexism in adults heavily exposed to entertainmen t programs (Condry, 1989). The amount of evidence supports the theory that television view ing does make and independent contribution to adolescents sex role orientation (Morgan, 1987). Cultivation studies about television, gays, and gay marriages have also surfaced. Cultivation theory is interested in televi sed messages, and examining how gays have been portrayed helps predict audience attitudes. Early depictions of gay men and lesbians were rarely positive and were often based on negative stereotypes In the 1940s and 1950s, for example, cartoonishly feminine men we re often the butt of jokes, making them ridiculous and non-threatening to viewers uncomfortable with the notion of gayness. By the 1960s, gay men, while still being used to comi c effect, also were depicted frequently as either murderers or murder victims in entertainment programs. In the 1970s, shows such as All in the Family included gay characters in their plotlines, allowing the main characters to misunderstand, fear, and finally come to accept a gay person. These stories often happened over the course of an episode, with the gay character a never-to-return
19 guest star (Netzley, 2007). Not only is there a scholarly link with cult ivation, other scholars believe we under value its influence on us. Television is not simply an entertainment medium; it has the ability to communicate the norms, rules, a nd values of a society. Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, and Signorielli state that the major social function of te levision lies in the continual repetition of patterns (myths, ideologies, facts, relationships, etc.), which serve to define the world, legitimize the social orde r, and cultivate cultura l values (Zhang and Harwood, 2002). Cultivation theory also exists cross-cu lturally. Zhang and Harwood published an artcicle in 2002 after exam ining televisions cultivation effects on perceptions of traditional Chinese values among a group of Ch inese college students. Hierarchical regression analyses indicated that total viewing of imported programs negatively predicted viewers endorsem ent of interpersonal harmony values. Chinese music performance programming, Chinese childrens education programs, imported movies, and imported sports were negative pred ictors of interpersonal harmony value endorsement; whereas, viewing Chinese sports was a positive predicto r of hierarchical relations (Zhang and Harwood, 2002). Jennifer Good explored the links between television viewing a nd attitudes about the natural environment. E nvironmental cultivation resear ch (research exploring the links between television viewi ng and attitudes about the natu ral environment) has found that heavier television viewer s tend to have less concern fo r environmental issues and feel less agency in addre ssing environmental issues th an their lighter viewing counterparts (Good, 2007). At a fundamental level, commercial televi sion exists because of an arrangement
20 between those who create television, those w ho wish to advertise on television, and those who view television. It is not only via adve rtising, however, that television transmits information about materialism. Television pr ogramming has also been found to contain positive images, narratives, and messages about materialism (Good, 2007). This literature seems to tell us that te levision continues to have an impact on society, and that impact is reflected in this research. Third-Person Effect Most of us believe that other people are more influenced by advertising, media violence, and news coverage than we are; this is the third person effect (Bryant, 2002). Instead of looking at media effects on beliefs it examines beliefs about media effects. Rather than assuming that media affect per ceptions, it assumes that perceptions can shape media. For this reason, the third-person effect (TPE) has generated substantial research interest in recent years. The third-person eff ect is a relatively new concept, as social science constructs go. It was invented in 1983 by sociologist W. Phillips Davison in a clever article that drew on in tuition and public opinion theor y. The third-person effect is an individuals perception that a message will exert a stronger imp act on others than on the self. The third-person term derives fr om the expectation that a message will not have its greatest influence on me (the gram matical first person), or you (the second person), but on them the th ird persons. Individuals may overestimate the impact that mass media exert on others, underestimate medi a effects on the self, or both (Bryant, 2002). The TPE hypothesis has two parts. The perceptual hypothesis asserts that people assume that communications influence othe rs more than the self. The behavioral
21 component suggests that people s expectations of media impa ct on others leads them to take action, perhaps because they want to thwa rt the predicted effect s. There is intuitive appeal to the third-person effect. It resona tes with everyday experience in which people attribute powerful, typically negative, effect s to the media. At the same time, people deny that media have affected them persona lly or have difficulty locating a single instance in which the same mass media have altered their ways of seeing the world (Bryant, 2002). Although the third-person effect is more hypothesis than full-blown theory, it has roots firmly planted in venerable communi cation concepts and respected research traditions. It is one of a family of co ncepts that bridges sociology and psychology, focuses on perceptions of social reality, and centers on beliefs about public opinion (Glynn, 1995). Like such constructs as plur alistic ignorance, it emphasizes that people harbor illusions-mistaken belie fs about others opinions. Ye t it contrasts sharply with such concepts as looking-glass perception (F ields, 1976) or its psychological counterpart, false consensus. According to looking-glass self or false consensus, people perceive that others share their view s of the world. The third-person eff ect view is different. It claims that people are prone to assume that media have different-invariabl y stronger-influences on others than on themselves (Bryant, 2002). The third-person effect has been stud ied in a variety of ways, but typically survey respondents are asked to estimate effects of researcher-described messages on others and self. In some cases, people read or view a communicati on; subsequently, they indicate their beliefs about the messages impact on third persons and themselves. Wording and question order vary with the study (Bryant, 2002).
22 Early research on the third-person e ffect suggested that it was a universal phenomenon, one that emerged every time indi viduals were asked to estimate media effects on others and the se lf. With more research a nd inevitable dampening of panglossian perceptions has come the realiza tion that, like most things in science, the effect is more likely to occur under particul ar conditions. Indeed, a careful look at third person research reveals that some respondents are more prone to th ird-person perceptions than others; for some messages, people do not discriminate between self and others; and for still other communications, people are pr one to do something that might bedevil Davison himself: they acknowledge they ar e susceptible to media effects (Bryant, 2002). Self-enhancement theories tell us that people should be loathe to admit that they are influenced by messages when such admission reflects negatively on the self. Thirdperson effects should be part icularly pronounced when the message is perceived as undesirable-that is, when peopl e infer that this message may not be so good for me or its not cool to admit youre influenced by th is media program. The flip side to these findings is more interesting. According to a self-enhancement view, if the third-person effect is driven by a desire to preserve self-esteem, people should be willing to acknowledge effects for communications that are regarded as socially desirable, healthy, or otherwise good for the self (Bryant, 2002). The search for individual differences in third-person perceptions has identified self-perceived knowledge, ego-involvement, and self-esteem as potential moderators of the third-person effect. It seems likely that there are subcultural differences in thirdperson perceptions (Bryant, 2002).
23 Television studies is the relatively recent, disciplinary name given to the academic study of television. Modeled by analogy on longer established fields of study, the name suggests that there is an object, television, which is the self-evident object of study using accepted methodologies. This may be increasingly the case, but historically, most of the formative academic research on te levision was inaugurated in other fields and contexts. The television of television st udies is a relatively new phenomenon, just as many of the key television scholars are empl oyed in departments of sociology, politics, communication arts, speech, theatre, media and film studies (Brunsdon, 1998). Studies There have been studies on television and its effects on college students. Recently, Rick W. Busselle conducted a study on television exposure titled Television Exposure, Parents Precautionary Warnings, and Young Adults Perceptions of Crime. Crime-related television viewing may in fluence not only the viewer but also individuals with whom th e viewer communicates. A ma tched sample of parents and their first semester college-age children we re surveyed independent ly (N = 178 pairs) to test a model linking parents crime-relate d television viewing with their college-age childrens perceptions of crime prevalence. Th e model identifies pare nts precautionary warnings as influenced by their own crime vi ewing and as influenci ng their college-age childrens crime-prevalence estimates. Results indicate the relationshi p between parents crime viewing and their issuance of precautiona ry warnings is mediated by their own estimates of crime prevalence and that parents precautionary warnings influence young adults perceptions of crime prevalence. Young adults gender influences both the frequency of parental warnings and young adu lts perceptions of how frequently they
24 were warned by parents but appears not to influence perceptions of crime directly (Busselle, 2003). Nielsen Media Research announced in February of 2006 that it would include college students living away from home in its television ratings begi nning in early 2007 (Aspan, 2006). At that time, college students were not included in the Nielsen ratings. Nielsen ratings measure viewing habits in sample homes to determine how many people in certain age and demographic groups wa tch television programs. Networks and advertisers rely on the ratings to sell commercials, and the exclusion of college students who live away from home omits a potentially influential demographic. According to Nielsen, these students watch an average of 24.3 hours of television a week (Aspan, 2006). Only students whose families already participate in Nielsens television surveys will have their viewing habits measured, mean ing that college students will be seen as part of their families rather than as new, independent households. But for the first time, the ratings will reflect viewing habits in dor m rooms, fraternity and sorority houses, and off-campus apartments (Aspan, 2006). According to Nielsen, the inclusion of college students could increase the viewing levels in the 18to 24-year-old ag e by 3 to 12 percent, which could result in ratings increases of 0.2 to 1.0 points for progr ams. The impact would vary for each network, depending in the ratings th ey currently receive (Aspan, 2006). On January 29, 2007, Nielsen Media Resear ch began including college students living away from home in its count. As a result, shows like Americas Top Model and Family Guy were expected to see their ratings surge (Story, 2007).
25 Usually, when Nielsen ratings rise, there is an increase in advertiser dollars, so the adjusted ratings are good news for networks like ESPN Fox, and CW. If advertisers decide to spend more on shows that demonstrate high college viewership, TV networks may decide to dedi cate more of their schedule programming to college tastes (Story, 2007). Measuring students viewing of televisi on comes with its own pitfalls. College students still watch a significant amount of television, spending three and a half hours a day tuned in on average, about an hour less than all people on average, according to Nielsen. But college students are not watchi ng only TV. They are also among the most likely consumers to be browsing the Intern et, watching streaming video, text messaging on their cell phones and playing video games-some times all at once. Their media habits make them targets of marketers, but just how attentive college students are while they are watching TV may give advertisers pause about how much they can trust their viewing (Story, 2007). Until now, the 18to 24 -year-olds counted by Nielsen were mainly those who did not attend college, attended part-time or still lived at home. During holiday and summer breaks, many college students are hom e and were counted by Nielsen at those times on their parents set top boxes (Story, 2007). Over the last decade, several TV ne tworks with shows aimed at young people grew increasingly frustrated that college st udents were not counte d. About five years ago, Turner Broadcasting, which owns Cart oon Network and TBS, approached Nielsen about the issue (Story, 2007). Other research examines how perceptions of body image are shaped by television.
26 Stella Chia investigated the third-person effect in relation to body-image factors in Singapore. College women in Singapore reported that thi nness ideals, as portrayed in magazine ads, had greater media effects on fr iends than on themselves Their perceptions of media effects on themselves was positively associated with their intention to lose weight. The sum of perceived effects on self and on friends accounted for college womens overall intention to adopt weight -loss behavior, whereas the third-person differential between self and female friends was negatively associated with the subjects intention to go on a diet (Chia, 2007). The previous research allows for an understanding of how in dividuals respond to television whether examining cultivation research or third-person effects. This background leads us to research questions which may be evaluated qualitatively. These questions include: 1. Do college students today think that th ere is too much vi olence on television? 2. Do third person effects present themselves as students discuss the effects of television in relation to the way they act, dress, and eat? 3. How do students view television a nd its depictions of reality? 4. Will students recognize the influences th at television and other media have on their lives?
27 Chapter 3: Methodology Cultivation typically uses survey procedures for examining relationships between exposure to television and react ions to those messages (Shanahan, 1999). There are many questions that can be used to gain insight into peoples conceptions of social reality. Questions that deal with the statistics and facts of the television world are common. Other questions deal with symbolism and implicati ons of television content. The questionnaires typically include quest ions relating to many aspects of social reality as well as measures of television view ing and demographic variables such as age, gender, race, education, occupation, social cl ass, and political or ientation (Shanahan, 1999). Amount of television viewing is usua lly assessed by asking how much time the respondent spends watching on an average day (Shanahan, 1999). Although it is important to know about how much time a re spondent spends watching television, it is more important to know the view ing level of the respondent. All in all, cultivation analysis tests for relationships between the amount of television viewing and the tendency to res pond to survey questions in the terms of the dominant and repetitive facts, values, and ideologies of the television world. Systematic differences in the outlooks of h eavy and light viewers provide evidence of televisions contribution to viewers con ceptions of social reality (Shanahan, 1999).
28 People who regularly consume a great deal of television differ from light viewers in many ways besides how much time they spend watching. In the general population, light and heavy viewers differ by age, sex, in come, education, race, occupation, time use, religion, social isolation, polit ical orientation, and a host of other demographic, social, and psychological variables. But they also differ in terms of the extent to which television dominates their sources of conscious ness. Light viewers tend to be exposed to more varied and diverse information sources (both mediated and interpersonal), while heavy viewers, by definition, tend to re ly more on television (Shanahan, 1999). One way to explain the methodological appr oach of cultivation is to invoke an old parable: Imagine a person living all alone on a tiny deserted is le (or a mountaintop, or a cave, or a biosphere) with no contact wi th anyone or anything in the outside world besides what he or she sees on televisi on. Everything this hypothetical hermit knows about reality is derived from the television world a world that differs sharply from the real world in terms of demography, violen ce, occupations and so on, and a world in which motivations, outcomes, and many normally invisible forces of life and society are made clear (Shanahan, 1999). It is possible that such a person would and could learn about the real world th rough patterns embedded in the symbolic world. Qualitative research methods were devel oped in the social sciences to allow researchers to study social and cultural issu es in contexts beyond those limited by the constructs of quantitative research. For instance, qualitative research may help us answer questions about how or why a human-directed phenomenon takes place. Qualitative data incorporates participant obs ervation with extensive interviews. The researchers experiences, thoughts, and ideas are also included in the analysis.
29 Qualitative methods use descriptions and categories, as opposed to quantitative methods, which use numbers and statistics. Qu antitative studies will tell researchers what is happening, but depending upon the survey or approach, may not help researchers answer other important questions. Experiment s, co-relational studies using surveys and standardized observational pr otocols, simulations, supportive materials for case study are examples of quantitative methods. The gene ral sequence for quantitative methods begins with the observation of events, presenting a questionnaire, and asking questions with fixed answers. The next step is to tabulate, then summarize the data. The last two steps include analyzing and drawing conclusions. Examples of qualitative methods ar e open-ended interviews, naturalistic observation, document analysis, case studies/life histories, de scriptive and self-reflective supplements to experiments and co-relati onal studies. The general sequence for qualitative methods is to observe events, a nd ask questions with ope n-ended answers, to record or log what is said and/or done, to interpret, to return to observe or ask more questions of people, to theorize fo rmally, and to draw conclusions. Qualitative methods allow a deeper unders tanding and interpretation of people and their behavior. Qualitativ e methods allow the researcher to investigate and further develop cultural and social contexts. Phenomenology is a common qualitative method that involves studying multiple individuals who have expe rienced the phenomenon. The typical access and rapport issues are finding people who have experienced the phenomenon. One selects individuals to study by finding individuals who have experienced the phenomenon, and once they have been found, a sample is generated. The type of
30 information that is typically collected is from interviews with up to ten people. Information is then recorded th rough a long interview protocol. The common data collection issues or field issues that are usually associated with Phenomenology are bracketing one s experiences and the logi stics of interviewing. Information is typically stored with computer files or transcriptions. The strengths of qualitative research are its depth and detail, its openness, which can generate new theories and recognize phe nomena ignored by most or all previous researchers and literature, and it helps people se e the worldview of thos e studies. It also attempts to avoid pre-judgments. The weaknesses of qualitative research ar e that fewer people are usually studied, it is less easily generalized, it is difficult to aggregate data and make systematic comparisons, and it is dependent upon research er's personal attributes and skills. A qualitative phenomenology study was c onducted in which participants answered questions pertaining to the effect s they believe television has on them. The participants were college students who view television on a frequent basis. In this particular study, frequent basis refers to co llege students that watc h at least an hour a night of television. The college students that participated in this study came from a major community college in a large metropolitan area in Flor ida. The students were asked if they would like to participate in such a study. They were informed that the study was voluntary, and they were also informed that their responses would remain anonymous. The participants were asked to set aside fifty minutes outside of regular class for the study. This way, the students had time to reflect on their answer s. The community
31 college students ranged in age from 18 to 24. Eleven students in their first year of college participated in the study. Nine of the stude nts who participated are female, and two of the students who participated are male. The first set of interviews was conduc ted as a focus group discussion, and the second set of interviews was conducted as indi vidual interviews. The interviews were tape recorded.
32 Chapter 4: Results The following four research questions were examined: R1. Do college students today think that there is too much violence on television? R2. Do third person effects present themselv es as students discuss the effects of television in relation to the way they act, dress, and eat? R3. How do students view television and its depictions of reality? R4. Will students recognize the influences that television and other media have on their lives? Throughout the course of both the focus gr oup and individual in terviews, several themes were strongly developed am ong participants. These included: 1. College students do not believe that tele vision influences the way they individually dress, act, and eat, but it does influen ce the same behaviors of other people their age. However, these same students reported that they recognized that televisi on has an influence on their liv es, and in combination with how they were ra ised in their families, it ma de them who they are today. 2. College students continue to believe there is too much vi olence on television. 3. Television often does not depict reality. There were other themes less conclusive that arose throughout the course of the interviews. Anorexia was discussed am ong the interviewees as a problem for young female viewers of Americas Next Top Model and most television shows. They stated
33 that the young women on the show are extrem ely thin, and that most of the time, the contestants think they are overweight. The interviewees discussed Jennifer Love Hewitt and a magazine article th at stated that she was gaining wei ght when in fact she looked fit. The students interviewed praised Jennifer L ove Hewitt for responding to the claims that she was overweight with a statement claiming th at she feels comfortable in her own skin. They had Jennifer Love Hewitt on it and she ha s put on a few pounds but she looks great. They are giving her a hard time saying that Jennifer Love Hewitt has gained twenty pounds and then they show he r in a bikini and she ha s got this whole quote only one magazine featur ed and she said, I feel comforta ble in my skin. I want to let everyone know that. But every other mag azine was like, shes gained weight. She is getting fat. And shes like, I want to give a positive message to women. It is sad that only one magazine will do that a nd all the other ones will be like, oh, she is getting fat. But America is getting larger every day. Were gett ing fat, but still the media portrays be skinny, be skinny. Its disgusting. (Student 4) Oh yeah, there should be less. They see it on TV and they are going to do it in real life too. (Student 3) R1. Most students that were intervie wed thought that there is too much violence on television. The key to captivating viewers is entertai nment; a certain amount of violence is to be expected in a persons s ev ery day life; therefor e, to re-portray the norm on television is not as entertaining or captiv ating. The consensus in this discussion is that violence on television is glorified and be yond what the average person sees outside of the realm of
34 television viewing. The stude nts had different views as to whether the violence on television was harmful or healthy to a persons psyche. This lady, she was on a show, and she had more than 96 surgeries. The lip surgery, the cheeks, she just got to be the perfect. Sh e got so old that all thos e things she was doing to her face were not healthy. Her face was smooshed in. (Student 2) It isnt that there needs to be less violen ce. Taking away violence from TV isnt going to keep people from seeing it. Th ey will just get it online. (Student 11) I think they glorify violence. They take vi olence and they make it look like it is okay, and they dont really show exactly th e consequences. They might show the bad guy goes to jail, but they dont really show the people around that are affected by the violence. They dont show the violence in harsh reality, like in a TV show you see a person get shot and like a little small pe llet hole. It doesnt look lik e that. If they were to show what a real bullet woul d do to somebody, you might think like, you know what, I dont think that I can stomach this. So, that is why people probably go around shooting people. Its not until you actually shoot so mebody that you would be like, wow, this guys really messed up right now. They glorify it too much. They make it look like it is okay. (Student 6) They have a lot of violence on TV but I dont think they sh ould reduce it. They should just watch when they put it on and who is being impressed upon, like the youth. (Student 4) They put it on the wrong time, the wrong place, everything. The Simpsons is supposed to be a kids show or was supposed to be a kids show, but it isnt a kids show now. Like Itchy and Scratchy (Student 4)
35 I think that it is all on the parents. They should watch wh at their kids are watching. If they dont want them to have a TV in their room then dont let them have a TV in their room. Families arent the way th ey were before. You have single moms who want their kids to go to sleep so they le t them have a TV in their room so they will go to sleep. They dont know how to control their kids and they ju st let them do what they want. (Student 8) Violence is there. There is no sense in trying to hide it. Taking it out of the media isnt going to do it. (Student 4) The students had different views as to whether the violence on television is harmful or healthy to a persons psyche; nonetheless, the students seem to agree that the the violence is captivating. The interviewees seemed to agree that the networks have a responsibility in regard to the time of day they air certain vi olent programming. They also stated that parents need to monitor what their childre n and young adults are watching. The students voice their concerns about violence throughout the study. In some instances, students stress how some television shows depict violen ce to a degree that is harmful for some viewers. The violence on television is gl orified, and good guys are behaving as badly as the bad guys. The students agree that the violence on tele vision seems to intensify as time goes on. Violent situations on television are b ecoming more intense, and the scenes are becoming more gruesome. Shows continue to exceed what was once considered the acceptable threshold of violence. The original research question seems to be supported in this case.
36 R2. Most students that were interviewed thought that television affects the way some dress, act, and eat, but some of th e students that were interviewed argued that the same does not apply to them. A trend that seems to remain consistent in the history of televi sion is that viewers seem to adapt their lifestyles to the trends that they see on television. Todays television viewing population seems to rely on what is popular at the present time and to incorporate it into its lifestyle. Unfortunately, it does affect teenager s, pretty much unsupervised teenagers. (Student 2) On the way television aff ects the way people dress: Greatly; they see something (on television) and they are like, I ha ve to have that. See the Prada shoes she is wearing. I have to have that, and Im going to spend my whole paycheck or my rent as well as my car insurance money on them. I will spend this money. (Student 2) Well, I believe like a lot of actors like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan do dress skanky, and then you have, you know, the younge r college girls or even high school girls dressing that way, and I mean, a lo t of times, you know, heaven forbid you have things like rape to worry about. These gi rls are wearing next to nothing. (Student 5) On the way television affects the way people act: I can say that I can rela te to one instance. There was like this TV show where, what are those guys who take the law into their own hands? (Student 6) Vigilantes (Student 4) Vigilantes, yeah. I can tell you from my personal experience coming out of war and
37 having to go through something like that I had the whole mindset that it was okay to take down bad people. (Student 6) Yeah, in these TV shows they get away with the crime. It shows the kids that you can get away with crime. (Student 4) I actually read a study a few years ago th at said that TV and M ovies skip the thought process and go straight into the imagina tion, so a lot of people dont really think about what they are watching and it does put something in their head and people get false hopes about things that they do watch, li ke watching fairy tale endings. (Student 5) Its not real. Its exaggerated. Oh God, Li ke this little girl, Britney Spears. Like, for instance, she was portrayed as a teeny bopper from Mickey Mouse, all sweet, and then she got married and she turned like a fool She just acts like a f ool. They are all hyping it up every chance they get. They are all like, She threw the child down or she is mentally insane. (Student 2) I think that they put it all out on the media like she is a bad person. Shes probably not even a bad person. Its just she has been a celebrity all her life a nd she got people influencing her. (Student 3) But thats not true though. A lot them, you dont see. A lot of these younger ones you dont see. You dont see Anne Hathaw ay in the news acting like a fool, you know. (Student 2) You know like Screech from Saved by the Bell Hes doing that sex tape. Hes acting disrespectful. Hes on Celebrity Health Fitness (Student 6) It all goes back to how the media portray s it. They dont want to see Anne Hathaway getting married. You know, its whatev er gets them more money. So, they see
38 something bad and it is entertaining (Student 2) So, the media agrees with the courts a nd the courts agree with the media, and then you got everybody against this one person th at they really dont know You cant, like, not like a person because they in a magazi ne because, you know, paparazzi is going to take pictures when youre not looking. Well, you know, you are in your own house, messing up, or arguing with your boyfriend and they going to take it (a picture). (Student 3) It is not real. It is acting that is what it is, its ac ting. Everybody is putting on a show. (Student 6) It doesnt matter, you know, they are put ting on show. I mean acting is not what it used to be in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s Those people, they acted, that is who we are today is from that. I mean nowaday s half of the people on th ere, I mean like, oh my gosh, where did they find this girl?. I could have done a better job for less. (Student 5) I would say, on their acti ng, the roles that they portray no wadays compared to back in the day, like back in the day you had like John Wayne, you know, like good guy, bad guy. The good guy tries to prevail over the bad guy. But nowadays they got shows going on where the bad guy may be wi nning, you know, like, the good guys doing bad things, like that show Shield I love that show Shield You got the good guy who is this bald white dude and he just beats th e hell out of everybody, so in a sense, sorry, but he is a bad ass. That is not John Wayne; John Wayne is a good guy. (Student 6) What is that show called about the se rial killer that is th e cop? (Student 5) Dexter (Student 6)
39 The cop that investigates serial killers; you are like, yeah, he kills people but he kills bad people (Student 5) So the good guys are the bad guys nowadays. (Student 6) Its like theyre blending the lines be tween good and bad so the kids dont know how to act. So if Im killing a bad guy, its okay. They dont know that its still a crime. (Student 4) On the way television affects the way people eat: I remember a couple years ago being fat and being big was lik e, oh, Im big, and I love it, and all this but now people ar e getting the bypass surger y. Those people are trying to lose weight now. So, I guess its being hea lthy. People are dying more of obesity and wanting to be skinny. (Student 2) After all that surgery, you don t know who you are. You really dont. I feel like America, like, they only look at one type of pretty. There is not one type, you know. There are so many, like you ha ve like India Arie pr etty. You got like Beyonce or the Beyonce look, you know the J Lo look is more popular, but you know, there are so many types of pret ty and I dont think the media sees that. (Student 3) I know that going to a fast food restaurant is going to affect me somehow in the long run. I try to eat something good, like a yogurt or a hot meal, something, but no, not what they show on TV. Again, I am so comfortable in my skin. (Student 2) There are some people that are naturally skinny too. They have a fast metabolism. My sister is in high schoo l and she just hit 90 pounds. Shes tall, skinny, and she eats a lot of food. It is not because, when she was younger, she kind of had an eating disorder
40 because she drank a lot of milk and m ilk fills you up, therefore when she was growing up she didnt get the proper nutrition. S o, now, it kind of looks like she eats healthy and looks like she doesn t eat at all but she eats bad food which isnt good. You know, you can still get h eart attacks from McDonalds. (Student 8) Queen Latifah, I just saw her do a Jenny Craig. She said, I dont want to be super skinny. I want to be healthy. And you do see people with a little bit of weight on them that are like, this is healthy. (Student 2) Based on the discussion, there does not seem to be a difference in todays television population. Television viewers seem to look at televisi on as a source for their fashion, diet, and overall lifestyle choices. The students seem to agree that televisi on plays an important part in the way viewers dress. It is apparent in society that fashion choices are emulated from what is seen on television. The sight of a product on television can i gnite a need for it. For example, a popular dress, haircut, or shoe style can become an instant sensation overnight. The interviewees tend to agree that te levision has an impact on the way people diet. Body weight and shape play an impor tant role on television. The actors and actresses seem to be thin and attractive. The discussion led to an interesting theory that even actors and actresses on television are crit icized when they gain weight. The consumers of television tend to be harsh on cel ebrities when they do not look perfect or as perfect as they once did. The discussion prompted students to disc uss the way viewers act as a result of watching certain television shows. They agr eed that certain people are affected more
41 than others while watching certain things on te levision. Students spoke about celebrities who were once role models becoming the opposite of what society expected them to. Students discussed Britney Spears being on The Mickey Mouse Club and how her life now does not emulate in any way the t ype of person she was back then. An issue that was also discussed is how television viewers tend to imitate what they see. This becomes a problem when th e line between good and evil gets blurred. The original research question seem s to be supported in this case. R3. Most students agreed that television does not depict reality. To emphasize on entertainment value, it s eems that most television shows rely on reality in the most minimal way. In orde r to engage viewers, television depicts unrealistic scenarios that in turn seem to captivate the audience. Its hard. You have TV shows with doc tors doing some wild stuff on the side like Nip/Tuck Its a great show but you cant associ ate with those peoples lives. Their lives have too much drama. Like reality TV. The minute there is no drama, they get dropped. (Student 4) We are in reality. We deal the ever yday struggles of life, car breaking down, not having money to pay for it, a check boun ced, and these people on these TV shows are like, call the nanny over. (Student 5) Everybody has struggles. Nobody is safe. I d ont care if you are a ce lebrity or a judge, you have your bills. (Student 7) Yeah everybody has struggles, but you know what, we work everyday. Like in 90210 who didnt watch that in the 90s. We can work through this Dillon. A lot of it is just not realistic, a nd I cant relate. (Student 5)
42 That is so unrealistic. 24 is the most dramatic show I have ever seen. I love that show though. (Student 3) I dont relate pers onally to the characters on Family Guy I kind of just enjoy the show. Not necessarily relate to one or another (Student 4) No. I dont relate to the characters on Greys Anatomy because number one, I am not in that profession. I enjoy watching it for strictly, you know, the drama, of course. But I dont relate with them because a lo t of their issues to me are not realistic, so. I guess I would say Izzy and the guy getti ng together (I forget his name because of the writers strike), falling in love, and then realizing they are not in love. You know, that type of thing. I think that it is kind of giving (I used to like it) It is kind of starting to bore me now. It is not as good as it us ed to be. I would say, you know, I look at it this way Lets say you are a college student who wants to go pre-med. I watch the show In Treatment because I want to major in psychology, and I find it very informative. A lot of the words that they use and what you might come across with different patients and lets say there might be a student w ho watches it for the medi cal aspect of it like they might have watched ER or something else. There might be some college students who watch it like a soap opera because of course they cant catch those during the day, so they watch it for the drama aspect. That is kind of how I look at it. (Student 5) Although most students interviewed agree that television is unr ealistic, they also argue that it is entertaining. Many of the conflicts presented on television shows are solved at ease while the same cannot be said for everyday reality. The students all tend to agree th at television is unrealistic, and that the same trials and tribulations that apply to the actors on television do not appl y to them. They
43 discussed living in real ity with everyday living expenses such as rent, car payments, and college tuition. One student said that shows like Greys Anatomy and ER could help college students understand the field of medicine better, but that most people watch those shows for entertainment value only. The students agree that there is too much drama on television, and because of that, it can not be compared to the real world. Th e original research question seems to be supported in this case. R4. At one time, the students said that television does not aff ect them, but then they say in many different ways that th e combination of television and the way they were raised made them who they are. Many of the students interviewed agree that television seem s to affect viewers significantly; however, most argued th at they were not affected themselves. Some of the students agree that televi sion does in fact mold young minds. It depends on what type of movies you were watching when you were a kid. I watched The Wood Friday, and Do the Right Thing Those were the things I watched. It does, kind of, affect the way your personality molds. (Student 3) We had cartoons that were fun, and it seems like cartoons grew up with us and now we have cartoons like Family Guy They are not a typical family in the United States, but they try to make it fun more than a t ypical family would be. It is a pretty unique interaction that they have. That is what makes the show fun that they are just always getting into someth ing that is not usual. It is no t the typical kids show. It is not what the younger audien ce should be watching. It is mo re of an adults cartoon. So, in that way, you could see more real life stuff in there. It is just not a kids show,
44 so we can relate to it more being older I guess. I think that a lo t of people misinterpret that it is meant for kids and the main idea that it is a cartoon, but it is an adults show. Because it is on at a ce rtain time, people think their kids can watch it and that is my whole reservation. That it is not meant for kids, it is for adult entertainment. The Simpsons and Family Guy kind of grew up with us, and they are not younger shows anymore. They mature like us an d now they grew up and there are about more everyday issues. (Student 4) Um, me personally, I don t relate to th e characters on Las Vegas but someone that wants to work in a casino or they like playing cards or gambling or something. There are shows that I relate to, but this is not one of them. I relate to That 70s Show because there is this guy called Fez, a nd I relate to him because when I first came to the United States, I was like him. Not as bad as him, but in a way, because I couldnt speak English, you know it was an experien ce like the one he has. It is hard for foreigners to try to adapt to America a nd to learn a language, so I try not to pick on them. (Student 9) In the discussion, the type of programmi ng that the viewers watched as children came up as having an impact on the way they ac ted as children and adolescents. It was apparent to the interviewees th at some television programs like The Simpsons grew up with them over the years. The subject matte r seemed to become more mature as time went on. In the discussion, a student points out that cartoons used to be aimed at children; however, over the years, shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy were introduced. Despite their colorful appearance, they are not meant to be viewed by children. They
45 contain mature situations that can be mi sinterpreted by young viewers. The generation that created The Simpsons and Family Guy understands that these shows are meant for mature viewers, but the same cannot be said for older generations that are looking for entertainment for youth that they may be car ing for. As a result, many have been exposed to situations beyond their comprehens ion for reason. The original research question seems to be supported in this case.
46 Chapter 5: Conclusions An analysis of the results of this qua litative study indicates that community college students perceive television has an impact on viewers. Numerous themes "bubbled" up during the course of interviews and contributed to our understanding of college students perceptions of the in fluence of television in their lives. The findings imply that Third Person effects were taking place among the students. This was an interesting result of the study. For instance, among the most significant findings were that while college students do not believe that television influences the way they indi vidually dress, act and eat, it does influence the same behaviors of other people their age. However, these same students reported that they recognized that television has an influence on their lives and in combination with how they were raised in their families, it made them who they are. Other interesting and important findings incl uded that a) colleg e students continue to believe there is too much violence on television, and b) that television often does not depict reality. The impact of each theme will now be discussed in further detail. The college students thought that televi sion affects the way some dress, act, and eat, but some said the same does not a pply to them. The consensus throughout the interviews was that most television viewers se e something on television, and they want to emulate it. This can apply to the clothes the actors wear, their behavior patters, and their
47 food and diet. Clothing trends are often set after a popular actor models them. Stylish handbags, shoes, and jeans are often seen for the first time on television creating a need to have them craze among young adults and college students. The interviews brought up an interesting theory about the way that body weight and shape play an important role on televisi on. Most actors on tele vision are thin and attractive, and most people think it is unrealistic to be so thin and attractive. However, as soon as the thin and attractive actor gains the least amount of weight, he or she is harshly criticized. The interviewees were in agreement that certain people are affected more than others while watching television. Some viewer s tend to imitate what they see whether it is healthy or harmful. Although it can be concluded that most college students beli eve that television affects the way some dress, act, and eat, so me argued that the same does not apply to them. The college students recognized the influe nces that television and other media has on their lives, and they recognized that in many ways the combination of television and the way they were raised made them who they are. At one time, some students said that television does not affect them, but they also said in many different ways that the combination of television and the way they were raised made them who they are. The interviews brought up a few signi ficant statements. Young minds are impressionable; therefore, the television pr ograms and movies that some watched as children and young adults molded their personali ties. Another intere sting conclusion is that some television programs like The Simpsons grew up with their original viewers.
48 The subject matter on The Simpsons seems more mature as the years go on. The intended audience is not children, as a cartoon may im ply, but an older audience that can indeed handle the mature nature of the program. The college students thought that there is too much violence on television. The college students thought that although th ere is too much violence on television, a certain amount is needed in order to captivate au diences. A person deals with a certain amount of violence in his/her ev eryday life, but nothing as dras tic as the violence that is depicted on television. The vi olence on television tends to be glorified, and actual consequences are not illustrated; therefore, an impressionable viewer could be inclined to think that the violence is acceptable in real life. When violence is depicted on televisi on, the viewers seldom see that such violence in real life can lead to repercussi ons that are not only difficult to handle for the perpetrator, but for the other pe ople that are affected by the violence. Television does not accurately depict the consequences that a violent act can have on all those involved directly or indirectly. The college students also t hought that taking violence completely out of television programming would be a wasted effort becaus e people could go to other sources in order to obtain it. Instead, they s uggested that parents should m onitor what their children are watching. They also believe that networks have a responsibility to th eir viewers. Violent programs should be aired later in the evening in order to protect the more impressionable viewers. The college students agreed that television does not depict reality. In fact, most television shows use unrealistic scenarios in order to captivate the audience. The
49 interviews led to some interesting conclusions Television viewers ca nnot relate to the actors on television because on te levision issues get resolved within an episode or a season. On the other hand, real life struggles cannot be solved in such a small amount of time. In everyday life, people deal with di sease, financial obligations, and day to day struggles. Most of these issu es cannot be solved in an eas y fashion; therefore, one can conclude that television does not depict reality. The intervie ws concluded that television programs are watched for entertainment pur poses not problem solving techniques. Based on the findings, we can tie cultivati on theory and third-person effects into the study. Cultivation is about the implicati ons of stable, repetitive, pervasive and virtually inescapable patterns of images and ideologies that television (especially dramatic, fictional entertainment) provides (Shanahan, 1999). Gerbner developed the concept of a cultural indicator. He devel oped it as a social i ndicator for important cultural issues. He cr itiqued those indicator s through a set of ques tions (also discussed earlier in this research). Those questions were: 1. What are the processes, pressures, and cons traints that influence a nd underlie the production of mass media content? 2. What are the dominant, aggregate patterns of images, messages, facts, values and lessons expressed in media messages? 3. What is the relationship between atten tion to these messages and audiences conceptions of social reality? (Shanahan, 1999) Cultivation theory ties in to the study because cultivation suggests that exposure to television over time does, in fact, deve lop viewers percep tions of reality.
50 The third-person effect also ties in to th e study because most of the college students believe that other people are more influen ced by media, violence, and news coverage than they are. The third-person effect was developed in 1983 by sociologist W. Phillips Davison. The third-person effect is an individual s perception that a message will exert a stronger impact on others than on the self. The third-person term derives from the expectation that a message will not have its greatest influence on me (the grammatical first person), or you (the s econd person), but on them th e third persons. Individuals may overestimate the impact that mass media exert on others, underestimate media effects on the self, or both (Bryant, 2002). The third person effect was evident throughout the interviews. Based on cultivation theory and thirdperson effect, the study supported ideas generated from both theories. Cu ltivation theory still remains an integral part of studying television and its effects on view ers. Television viewers perc eptions of reality seem to be altered over time. The college students ag ree that too much expos ure to television can create problematic situations for some view ers. The interviewees believe that people watch too much television, and it does, in fact, mold who they are. Third-person effect was increasing ly common throughout th e course of the interviews. College students today seem to agree that although tele vision affects most of its viewers, it does not affect them directly. On the othe r hand, there were statements throughout the course of the interviews that implied otherwise. College students today said that the television they watched as chil dren and adolescents helped mold who they are today.
51 Since these findings support cultivation theory and third-person effect, the findings can extend the previous research. Cultivation theory and third-person influences on college students are two thought provoking areas of research that provide insight to a demographic that has not been studied as much as perhaps it should. College students can provide valuable res ponses to questions that arise in terms of programming. College students percep tions of television programming are an interesting avenue worth exploring. This research was important because th ere have not been many studies conducted on television and its effects on co llege students. It is importa nt to continue such studies in order to gain a better unders tanding of how college student s perceive television and its content. The college students interv iewed provided insight and thought provoking notions that are underlying themes in televi sion. The interviews provided yet further insight into the overall appeals that televisi on programming has with college students. A limitation is that with qualitative res earch, fewer people are usually studied, and it is less easily generalized. In this particular phenomenol ogical study, there were eleven participants. More participants might provide more answers to each of the research questions and, as a re sult, formulating more ideas. Another limitation of the study is that those interviewed were college students between the ages of eighteen a nd twenty-four; therefore, one might argue that they were not as experienced in life as older participants could have been. Also, college students represent a limited group for any study. Gender distribution is also problematic b ecause one can also argue that males or females are not properly represented.
52 There can and should be future research conducted on perceptions of programming in relation to college students. Such studies can contribute to the small amount of related studies that are available today. The studi es relating to college students and their perceptions of television programmi ng that are circulating among the research community are few today. There were many television studies conducted in the 1970s and 1980s, but they have tapered off. It is important to incorporate more college students in studies relating to television. They are a significantly large group that watches television on a consistent basis. An influx of commercials and programming is geared at them, so it is alarming that more studies have not been conducted in this particular area. An area for further research can include interviews that focus on different television programs such as soap operas. Do college students watch so ap operas? If so, how often do they watch them? Do they relate to the characters on the soap operas? Do they think that soap operas depict reality? Are there any favorite soap operas among college students? Another promising area for further research is college students and movies. How often do college students view movies? Can th ey relate to any of the actors in the movies? Do they think movies depict reality? What do they think of the amount of violence portrayed in some movies? Do the ratings work? For example, is a PG13 movie really appropriate for a thirteen-year-o ld? Is a rated R movie appropriate for a seventeen-year-old? Yet another potential area for further research would be to develop a study comparing and contrasting regular televi sion programming with cable television
53 programming. Is there more or less violence in one or th e other? Do college students prefer one over the other? What are the di fferent themes that viewers can expect from regular television versus cable ? The specific design of th e study and the number of stations included from the cable side w ould need serious consideration before undertaking the research. Further research can also be conducted st udying college students and the levels of influence their parents have or have had on th e type of programs that they watch. Do the programs that they watch reflect the choices their parents made for them as children and adolescents? In other words, are they wa tching programs on television that their parents would approve of, or are they watching tele vision programs that their parents would censure?
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58 Appendix A: Transcripts The following transcripts are from the fo cus group discussion that took place on March 20, 2008. 1. How do you believe televi sion affects its viewers? When someone dies or so mething happens where someone meets up with someone See, TV exaggerates on stuff when it is not really like th at. (Student 1) Unfortunately, it does affect teenagers, who, pretty much unsupervised teenagers; they see something on TV, not, for instance, drag racing. They do that a lot, and unfortunately they dont look at the conseque nces of drag racing. You know they run over one another. They hurt themselves. They kill themselves. Unsupervised teenagers who have absolutely nothing to do unsupervised. (Student 2) I think videos influence kids today. Videos make them prone to sex more, because that is how it is in the streets. That is all it is on TV, a bunch of sex, you know, and that influences kids. Thats one of the reasons. (Student 3) I think the news likes to put a lot of negativity out there. Th ey dont like to cover any of the good stories about what people have done good in their lives, or what they see as bad, like what was the worst accident that day. What s the worst that happe ned. (Student 4) They only give half of the story. They dont give the whole story. (Student 2)
59 When they do do something good it is for lik e 2 seconds and then it is followed by something extremely horrible. (Student 5) 2. How do television actors affect the way people dress? How would you describe the way actors on television dress? Greatly; they see something (on television) and they are like, I gotta have that. See the Prada shoes she is wearing. I gotta have that and Im gonna spend my whole paycheck or my rent as well as my car insurance money on them. I will spend this money. (Student 2) Well, I believe like a lot of actors like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan do dress skanky, and then you have, you know, the younger co llege girls or even high school girls dressing that way, and I mean, a lot of times you know, heaven forbid you have things like rape to worry about. These girls are wearing next to noth ing. (Student 5) 3. How would you describe the wa y actors act on television? Its not real. Its exaggerate d. Oh God, Like this little girl, Britney Spears. Like, for instance, she was portrayed as a teeny bopper from Mickey Mouse, all sweet, and then she got married and she turned like a fool. She just act a fool. They are all hyping it up every chance they get. They are all like, S he threw the child down or she is mentally insane. (Student 2) I think that they put it a ll out on the media like she is a bad person. Shes probably not even a bad person. Its just she has been a celebrity all her life and she got people influencing her. (Student 3) But thats not true though. A lot them, you dont see. A lot of these younger ones you dont see. You dont see Anne Hathaway in the news acting a fool, you know. She, she she (Student 2)
60 You know like Screech from Saved By The Bell Hes doing that sex tape. Hes acting disrespectful. Hes on Celebrity Health Fitness (Student 6) It all goes back to how the media portrays it. They dont want to see Anne Hathaway getting married. You know, its whatever gets them more money. So, they see something bad and it is entertai ning. (Student 8) They hype it up to make it look extra bad. (Student 5) Its the media. Its their job (Student 8) Theyre out there doing st upidness. (Student 2) So, the media agrees with the courts and th e courts agree with the media, and then you got everybody against this one person that th ey really dont know You cant, like, not like a person because they in a magazine because, you know, paparazzi is going to take pictures when youre not looking. Well, you know, you are in your own house, messing up, or arguing with your boyfriend and they gon na take it (a pictur e) (Student 3) I gotta a question about your question. You said, What is our opinion of the actors and the way they act. Are you saying in thei r personal lives or on TV? (Student 6) How they act on TV and you can expand into th eir personal lives as well. (Interviewer) It is not real. It is acting th at is what it is, its acti ng. Everybody is putting on a show. (Student 6) It doesnt matter, you know, they are putting on s how. I mean acting is not what it used to be in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Those people, th ey acted, that is who we are today is from that. I mean nowadays half of the people on th ere, I mean like oh my gosh where did they find this girl at. I could have done a better job for less. (Student 5)
61 I would say, on their acting, the roles that they port ray nowadays compared to back in the day, like back in the day you had like John Wayne, you know, like good guy, bad guy. The good guy tries to prevail over the bad guy. But nowadays they got shows going on where the bad guy may be winning, you know, like, the good guys doing bad things, like that show Shield I love that show Shield You got the good guy who is this bald white dude and he just beats the hell out of everybody, so in a sense, sorry, but he is a bad ass. That is not John Wayne; John Wayne is a good guy. (Student 6) What is that show called a bout the serial kill er that is the cop? (Student 5) Dexter (Student 6) The cop that investigates serial killers; you ar e like, yeah, he kills people but he kills bad people. (Student 5) So the good guys are the bad guys nowadays. (Student 6) Its like theyre blending th e lines between good and bad so the kids dont know how to act. So if Im killing a bad guy, its okay. Th ey dont know that its still a crime. (Student 4) 4. How can others or you rela te with people on television? Its hard. You have TV shows with doctors doing some wild stuff on the side like Nip/Tuck. Its a great show but you cant asso ciate with those peopl es lives. Their lives have too much drama. Like reality TV. The minute there is no drama, they get dropped. (Student 4) Like this one guy, he was working as a doctor, I think in Pinellas. He was working as a doctor I cant remember the exact professi on he was in. He was not a doctor, and he got busted. Something, he was doing something and he just got caught up. (Student 2)
62 Nowadays, you can get away with a lot of stuff. (Student 3) You do, but.. I mean, you cant. I wouldnt be able to, to be honest with you. (Student 2) You take it to court and evidently you ar e going to win, because you didnt look into it back when it started. How did you not notice this and umm.. Evidently, you are going to get away with the crime. (Student 3) Yeah, in these TV shows they get away with the crime. It shows th e kids that you can get away with crime. It shows a kid that he only got 10 days prob ation or something. (Student 4) Paris Hilton couldnt stay in jail. If it was us, wed stay in jail. He said that she was too pretty to be in jail. And then there is the pedophile Debra Lafave who was too pretty to be in jail. Thats bull crap right there. (Student 2) If you have money, (Student 8) (Money) should not be an object. (Student 2) But thats how it works. (Student 7) Well, to piggy back off of what she said al ready, you cant relate. We are in reality. We deal the everyday struggles of life, car breaking down, not having money to pay for it, a check bounced, and these people on these TV shows are like, call the nanny over. (Student 5) Everybody has struggles. Nobody is safe. I don t care if you are a ce lebrity or a judge, you have your bills. (Student 7) Yeah everybody has struggles, but you know what, we work everyday. Like in 90210 who didnt watch that in the 90s? We can wo rk through this Dillon. A lot of it is just not realistic and I cant relate. (Student 5)
63 That is so unrealistic. 24 is the most drama tic show I have ever s een. I love that show though. (Student 3) I can say that I can relate to one instance. There was like this TV show where, what are those guys who take the law into their own hands? (Student 6) Bounty hunters (Several respond) Vigilantes (Student 4) Vigilantes, yeah. I can tell you from my personal experience coming out of war and having to go through something like that. Then I had the whole mindset coming out, I had the whole mindset that it was okay to take down bad people, so I figured, I dont know. You gotta remember that I just came out of th is state. So, I was thinking, like, if I go home and start taking a few people that I deem as bad, it would be alright. They are bad people and in my head, you know, they are ba d, period. Therefore, and, I would say it was probably because of the media, because of watching TV shows like that. I came from the marines so all we would ever watch is macho stuff, you know. So, no matter what its macho, macho, macho, and I get this whole mindset that it is, like, okay to just come back home and do what I want. You know, without any repercussions, because, you know, that is just what my life revolved around between wo rk and what I watched on films. It just dawned on me at one point that, whoa, you ar e going crazy dude. You need to relax. This is not, this is war, and this is TV, and when you go home, life is not like this. (Student 6) Did it turn into a Boondocks scene over there? Thats a perfect example too. (Student 4) Yeah, actually, thats one of the things that I watched as soon as I got out. I had never seen it before, but I was like wow, thats awesome. (Student 6)
64 It is about these two Irish w ho use their religion and backgrou nd to kill bad people. They always say a prayer right before they k ill them. They go after them. They hunt them down and then they are going through this ri ng because the neighborhood they live in is going under. It was turning into a bad nei ghborhood. They took it into their own hands. Thats what they did. A lot of people looked up to them. It is not right what they are doing, but in a small way you kind of think it is but its not. (Student 4) 5. How does television affect the way your peers act? It depends on what type of movies you were watching when you were a kid. Me, I watched The Wood and Friday and Do the Right Thing Those were the things I watched. It does, kind of, affect the way your personality molds. Those other people that were watching Clueless or something like that. (Student 3) I actually had this friend of mine, true stor y, she was out there. I mean, when I tell you she was out there, I mean she would watch the video. She would do the wildest thing and I thought, Oh my God, Im going to hell because I am listeni ng to her. She lived with her Mom at the time, so she didnt have to do a lot of things. She worked every day. Her paycheck was to go out to the mall. Every tim e she was going to the club she would get new shoes, would get an outfit and she woul d say I saw this outfit on a video. Everything that the video portrayed, she di d and she dressed like that. The things that she did, and Im like, Oh my God. Its dumb. You really believe everything you see in these videos? Its a green wall, I mean its not real. She l oved it. Every night she would be out and go some where. She just wouldnt stay home. Im like, you need to grow up. She didnt have any responsibility. Her Mom treated as such, so she had this mentality that it was fine, but everything she saw in the videos she w ould get at a later ti me. She would get the
65 latest shoes, nails, the spiral one. She just loved the atten tion. I swear, that is all she watched. She looked nice but what about your 401k? What about your health plan? (Student 2) My experience was like, um, Jackass and weight lifting. So, it was like, it was a mixture of who could do the most craziest stuff, b ecause honestly we had absolutely nothing. So, it was like Jackass stuff. We had guys w ho had like, you know, were throwing scorpions into each others sleeping areas Or, any little critter we found in the desert. Wed be like, lets see how this guy reacts to it. (Student 6) I actually read a study a few years ago that said that TV and Movies skip the thought process and go straight into the imagination, so a lot of people dont really think about what they are watching and it does put somethi ng in their head and people get false hopes about things that they do watch, like watching fairy tale endings. (Student 5) Romeo and Juliet (Student 3) Yeah, I think it gives people false hope especially teens. (Student 5) 6. How does television affect the way people eat? Oh man. (Student 3) Anorexia (Several Respond) Oh my God, the model show. (Student 2) Yeah, yeah, every time I see that, I think I ha ve to be this thin (makes hand gesture of thin figure) (Student 5) Thats not reality. These girls are like extra skinny. (Student 2) Not necessarily because, I mean, if you want to eat whatever you want to eat and not be criticized, that is kind of your own opinion of what you want to do. I find that it is
66 becoming more acceptable to be overweight now. And I dont know if that is a bad move to say. Like, when I go shopping it is harder to find my size clothes because there are so many bigger sizes. (Student 3) Are you serious? Wow. (Student 2) It is hard to find my clothes too. I wear like an 11. (Student 3) I never knew that males, they just started to study male anorexia and bulimia. I was, like, oh my God. I never knew that I thought it was mostly wo men, but actually males are doing it to stay thin. That is so unhealthy. So metimes I watch Maury Povich and this lady was 32 pounds wet. She was so sick. I started crying because I am so comfortable in my skin, whatever. I can take a walk. I could go exercise. I feel good about myself, but when they start portraying things like that, it is so sad. And they think it is cool like it is the biggest thing that hit. (Student 2) There are some people that are naturally sk inny too. They have a fast metabolism. My sister is in high school and she just hit 90 pounds. Shes tall, skinny, and she eats a lot of food. It is not because, when she was younger, she kind of had an eating disorder because she drank a lot of milk and milk fills you up, therefore when she was growing up she didnt get the proper nutrition. So, now, it ki nd of looks like she eat s healthy and looks like she doesnt eat at all but she eats bad food which is nt good. You know, you can still get heart attacks from McDonalds. (Student 8) Queen Latifah, I just saw her do a Jenny Crai g. She said, I dont want to be super skinny. I want to be healthy. And you do see people with a little bi t of weight on them that are like, this is healthy. (Student 2)
67 You see all the magazines in the super market s as you walk out that are right there. (Student 4) Who was in a bikini? (Student 3) They had Jennifer Love Hewitt on it and she has put on a few pounds but she looks great. They are giving her a hard time saying that Jennifer Love Hewitt has gained 20 pounds and then they show her in a bikini and sh e has got this whole quote only one magazine featured and it said, I feel comfortable in my skin. I want to let everyone know that. But every other magazine was like, shes ga ined weight. She is getting fat. And shes like, I want to give a positive message to women. It is sad that only one magazine will do that and all the other ones w ill be like, oh, she is getting fat. But America is getting larger every day. Were getting fat, but still the media portr ays be skinny, be skinny. Its disgusting. (Student 4) I remember a couple years ago being fat and being big was like, oh, Im big and I love it, and all this but now people are getting the bypass surgery. Those people are trying to lose weight now. So, I guess its being hea lthy. People are dying more of obesity and wanting to be skinny. (Student 2) After all that surgery, you dont kno w who you are. You really dont. This lady, she was on a show, and she had more than 96 surgeries. The lip surgery, the cheeks, she just got to be the perfect. She got so old that al l those things she was doing to her face were not healthy. Her face was smooshed in and like... I feel like America, like, they only look at one type of pretty. Ther e is not one type, you know. There are so many, like you have like I ndia Arie pretty. You got like Beyonce or
68 the Beyonce look, you know, the J Lo look is more popular, but you know, there are so many types of pretty and I dont think the media sees that. (Student 3) Like Paris Hilton, she is not pr etty. She is really skinny, but they portray her as this gorgeous girl. (Student 4) If she was like us normal, she would not look cute. Its like a close up of Jessica Simpson. You get a close up on her face like on the commercials Shes got all those zits. She has no makeup on. (Student 3) Like Alicia Keys, Queen Latifah, she is beautiful. (Student 7 ) I think there should be an issue where it shows all the women with no makeup on. How many of them would sign up to it? Ther e wouldnt be (any) (Student 4) 7. How does television affect th e way you or your peers eat? I know that going to a fast food restaurant is going to affect me somehow in the long run. I try to eat something good, lik e a yogurt or a hot meal, some thing, but no, not what they show on TV. Again, I am so comforta ble in my skin. (Student 2) They try say that water has calories, but it is okay to drink a soda. (Student 3) Bottled water sometimes has added sugars. (Student 8) I dont care, its still wa ter. (Student 3) 8. How much violence is there on television? Too much. (Several respond) A lot of it. (Student 3) Thats all they want to show. (Student 4) Then you got the police doing violence. (Student 7) There is a lot of violence on TV, even in the cartoons. Im like, Oh my gosh.
69 (Student 2) Like Family Guy there is a lot of violence on Family Guy (Student 4) Interestingly enough, I have questions on Family Guy I love Family Guy though. (Student 4) 9. Should there be less or more violence on television? Why? Oh yeah, there should be less. They see it on TV and they are going to do it in real life too. (Student 3) It isnt that there needs to be less violence. Taking away violence from TV isnt going to keep people from seeing it. They will ju st get online (Internet) (Student 11) I think they glorify violence. They take vi olence and they make it look like it is okay, and they dont really show exactly the consequences. They might show the bad guy goes to jail, but they dont real ly show the people around that are affected by the violence. They dont show the violence in harsh reality, like in a TV show you see a person get shot and like a little small pellet hole. It doesnt look like that. If they were to show what a real bullet would do to somebody, you might think like, you know what, I dont think that I can stomach this. So, that is why people probably go around shooting people. Its not until you actually shoot somebody that you would be like, wow, this guys really messed up right now. They glorify it too much. They make it look like it is okay. (Student 6) They have a lot of violence on TV but I don t think they should reduce it. They should just watch when they put it on and who is being impressed upon, like the youth. (Student 4)
70 They put it on the wrong time, the wrong place, everything. The Simpsons is supposed to be a kids show, or was supposed to be a ki ds show, but it isnt a kids show now. Like Itchy and Scratchy (Student 4) Oh my God. (Student 2) That is not a show that kids should be watching. (Student 4) Cartoons they used to, you know, we had car toons that were fun and you know it seems like cartoons grew up with us and now we have cartoons we make like Family Guy (Student 4) I think that it is all on the parents. They should watch what their kids are watching. If they dont want them to have a TV in their room then dont let them have a TV in their room. Families arent the way they were be fore. You have single moms who want their kids to go to sleep so they let them have a TV in their room so they will go to sleep. They dont know how to control their kids and they ju st let them do what they want. (Student 8) Violence is there. There is no sense in trying to hide it. Taking it out of the media isnt going to do it. (Student 4) 10. How does television promote drinking? They have commercials with pe ople talking about sex and stuff. Children are still close to their roots, they dont know what they ar e doing. Parents say, Oh hes too young to talk about it. You dont know what your child is out there doing. You dont know what hes talking about. Nowadays, they start early gi rl. They are young but they see their parents doing it and they feel like they can go do it. There was a little girl who saw her momma
71 smoking a blunt. Her momma was out doing drug s and introduced her daughter to and then saw her daughter do ing it. (Student 3) You actually delved into my next question, which is good. Lets just talk about that. 11. How does television promot e adolescents behaving badly? It always starts at home, and a lot people dont realize that. It starts at home. We had to be home before the streetlights came on and go to bed at a certain time. If I was out and didnt say good afternoon to the neighbor, my mother woul d know because the neighbor would tell her about it. (Student 2) Its not all at home. It is also about the people they ha ng around with. (Student 3) No, no, it is at home. Dont sa y that. It starts at home. When I was a kid, I wasnt allowed to do the things that thes e little kids are doi ng. (Student 2) Yeah, there are no reperc ussions. (Student 4) It is about manners and saying good morni ng and good afternoon, and please and thank you. (Student 2) They can get it in the st reets too, or at school, or with th e people that they hang out with. When other kids come around, you dont know what they are doing. (Student 3) Okay, next question. What Wait, can I say something? Um, I think th ey commercialize alcohol like it is okay. Actually, its all the time. When you watch the commercials, its either funny or its absolutely okay. Like, some guy face plants on the floor and its funny but they dont show the guy is ODd (over dosed) on alcohol an d next thing is in the hospital with an I.V. shoved up in them. They make it seem like it is absolutely okay and go ahead and drink as much as you want to. (Student 6)
72 12. Overall, what type of influence is television in the lives of others? In your life? Answered in previous responses. 13. What makes a televisi on program too violent? Cutting off someones head. (Student 3) Rape. (Student 6) When it is not something that can actually happe n in real life, that is when I think it is insane. Like, in 24, there is always some sort of bomb going off. There is always someone dying and someone is trapped. It is not realistic. Like, Saw, is just so sick and twisted. Like, people cut someones arms and legs off (Student 4) Some people are like that. Yo u never know. (Student 7) 14. What makes violence on television appealing to some viewers? Its a rush. (Student 3) I think it is not reality. (Student 2) Its getting to go to a world that you would ne ver see (in reality). Th at is entertaining to someone. (Student 8) Yeah, it speaks to the imagination. (Student 4) 15. What makes violence on televi sion appalling to some viewers? Weve already touched on this question a nd you mentioned some things like heads getting cut off. Would a nyone like to add to this? I think, nowadays, anything violent against women and children is deemed morally wrong. In any movie, a guy can get blown up and it is like, whatever, next seen. But, if a woman and child get blown up its like, they pl ay the dramatic music and they say feel bad about this. And, um, what was th e other question? (Student 6)
73 You answered it. What makes violence appalling? 16. How many hours a day of television is too much? When you just sit for like 8 hours, an ything over 6 hours. (Student 2) Everywhere you turn there is TV. You go down to the cafeteria to eat lunch and there is a TV. You go to some waiting rooms now and they have TV. (Student 4) 17. How many hours of televi sion do you view a day? Now, going around the room, how many hours a day of television do you watch? And, Ill give you a second to think about it, including Tivo, a da y, a typical day. probably 2 (hours). four. four. five. not more than 1 hour. an hour to two. zero. Can I say something about it? (Student 6) Sure, lets get through everyone saying how much they watch and then well get back to your comment. three. one. thirty minutes. zero to thirty minutes. about three hours.
74 Okay, what was your comment? Okay, I think that, like, two hours is enough if you are watching prime time and trying to catch up on things but if you find yourself watc hing reruns; that is not okay. (Student 6)
75 The following transcripts are from the indi vidual interviews that were conducted on April 8, 2008. What can you tell me about the characters Family Guy ? They are not a typical family in the United Stat es, but they try to make it fun more than a typical family would be. (Student 4) How do you feel about the wa y they interact socially? It is a pretty unique interacti on that they have. That is what makes the show fun that they just always getting into somethi ng that is not usua l. (Student 4) How would you describe the way the actors on Family Guy dress? Casual, everyday. (Student 4) Do you have anything you would like to add about why college students relate to the show? Because it is not the typical kids show. It is not what the younger audience should be watching. It is more of an adults cartoon. So, in that way, you could see more real life stuff in there. It is just not a kids show, so we can relate to it more being older I guess. (Student 4) Do you think Family Guy sends a message to viewers out there? The general message is that everything shoul dnt be taken so seri ously. (Student 4) How do you feel about the way the characters on Greys Anatomy interact socially? I guess they interact pretty well. They do hol d values of friendship. There is the issue between Izzy and Christine. For whatever re ason, Christine doesnt like her. And I think there is their issue. Izzy and George and th e lady that George was married to (of course,
76 they dont like each other because of those tw o getting together. But, socially, I guess they interact pretty well. (Student 5) How would you describe the way the actors on Greys Anatomy dress? Like doctors, pretty much urban, nothing that is too provocative. I feel like they dress fine. Urban, casual. (Student 5) Is there anything you would like to add about the show in general? That it needs to get better because I am starting to lose interest. (Student 5) Do you relate personally to any of the actors on Americas Next Top Model ? No. Because they are really, they really car e about their look. I mean, I care about my look, but they are to the extreme. You know, I dont care to the poi nt Ill stop eating and you know, they like kill themselves. The girls on there are really anorexic, and they still feel that they are fat. And, I am like, you know, if that is fat to you, then I am huge. It is a good show because it gives girls a chance to be models and stuff, but some of the stuff those girls do is just ridiculous. (Student 3) How do you feel about the wa y they interact socially? It is more of a competition thing. They start off as friends or try to be friends, but then they backstab and they compete. They tr y to compete for the spot. (Student 3) How would you describe the way the models on Americas Next Top Model dress? They pretty much wear what the photographer picks out for them to wear. It is usually provocative stuff usually like leaves, island looking stuff. When they are not being photographed, they dress normal, jeans and shir ts, but when they are modeling, they put on a lot of makeup, a lot of rhines tones, eyebrows. (Student 3) What type of message do you think it ( Americas Top Model ) sends to college students?
77 I dont think it affects college students, but if you are like middle school or high school, it might affect you because little girls might say I wear a size 5 and I am probably too big. You know, they might think that way, but I wouldnt think it w ould affect college students. (Student 3) What are some of the ideas you hold about this show ( Americas Top Model )? It is just you always have your favorite girl that you want to win, but it is just something to entertain. (Student 3) How do you relate or how do othe rs relate to this show ( Americas Top Model )? Oh, me personally, I dont rela te to the show, but I do know people that want to be models, and they want to go on Americas Top Model They just take notes of what they like and what they dont like, so they will know when they apply for it. (Student 3) Is there anything else you would like to add about the show? It is a good show. I like Tyra You know shes like a size 9, and I just dont understand how those girls can think they are fat. Tyra is a super-model, and she has hips, thighs, she is not skinny at all. And they look at themselves and they think they are fat, but Tyra is a super-model. She is the one judges you. I dont know why you feel like you are fat? (Student 3) Do you relate personally to any of the actors on Gossip Girl ? I dont really relate to any of them because they lead kind of a different life than my own. They live in New York, and they all have a lot of money. Um, I guess sometimes in the things that they do like when they betray each other or when they help each other; I guess I can relate to that kind of thing. (Student 10) How do you feel about the wa y they interact socially?
78 I think that their social interactions are re ally weird. Everyone kind of hates each other, but they also pretend to be friends. And, I guess that is kind of true about some people, but they are really mean, like outwardly mean to each other sometimes. And, I dont think that is what really pe ople act like. (Student 10) How would you describe the way the actors on Gossip Girl dress? They dress really high fashion. They wear a lot of designer clothes and one of the girls moms owns her own fashion label, and, so, th ey are always weari ng these couture kinds of dresses, and they dress kind of fanc y um not like anybody I know. (Student 10) Why do you think college students or you relate to this show? Because the characters are young, and they can do stuff, and they have the kind of life that most people wished they had. And, so, it is kind of like, you get to see what it would be like if you had a lot of money. (Student 10) Do you relate personally to any of the actors on Las Vegas ? Um, yeah, kind of. I forgot what his name is. It is the guy that used to be in the military. (Danny?) Yeah, Danny because he is cool about everything; he is serious when he has to be. (Student 9) How do you feel about the wa y they interact socially? It is a TV show, you know, it happens in life, but not for everybody. Um, like everything is set up in the TV show; they ha ve their drama and ever ything, but it doesnt really happen every single da y in real life. (Unrealistic in a way.) (Student 9) How would you describe the way the actors on Las Vegas dress? It is all fancy, you know, like they work in a casino, and they are supposed to look nice and everything, but there are re gular life people that go to work in their usual uniform
79 and that is it you know. But I guess they have to dress nice because it is a show. They just manage the casino. I know the old guy; I forgot his name. I am not good at names. (James Caan?) The owner of the casino. He is the one that manages. His daughter she does shows; they try to get artists and all of that. (Student 9) just manage the casino. I know the old guy; I forgot his name. I am not good at names. (James Caan?) The owner of the casino. He is the one that manages. His daughter she does shows; they try to get artists and all of that. (Student 9)
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Fisher, Suzette Marie.
Perceptions of programming :
b cultivation and third person influences on college students
h [electronic resource] /
by Suzette Marie Fisher.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 79 pages.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2008.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: There have been many studies conducted on television and its effects. Since the 1950's, when television emerged, there has been an influx of patterns and behaviors associated with television viewing and programming. Many researchers are fascinated with television and the reactions of those who are directly affected by it. People have been known to act out in many ways as a result of something they saw on television. Many believe that television viewing directly affects a person's mind. An analysis of the results of this qualitative study indicates that college students perceive television has an impact on viewers. Throughout the course of both the focus group and individual interviews, several themes were strongly developed among participants. These included: 1.College students do not believe that television influences the way they individually dress, act, and eat, but it does influence the same behaviors of other people their age. However, these same students reported that they recognized that television has an influence on their lives, and in combination with how they were raised in their families, it made them who they are today. 2.College students continue to believe there is too much violence on television. 3.Television often does not depict reality.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Advisor: Kenneth C. Killebrew, Ph.D.
Mean world syndrome
x Mass Communications
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.