For, if even those who recognize the potential effects of TV tend to believe that these effects concern others rather than themselves, no one will acknowledge the need to somehow shield oneself from these effects. In other words, if I am not aware that exposure to media has an impact on my personal attitudes and beliefs, on me as a person, I will not do anything to prevent or correct this impact. Of course any attempt to prevent or correct the potential impacts of TV on oneself presupposes that I assume in the first place that such effects are to some extent damaging. Research in social psychology supports that TV does affect us. Whether these effects are detrimental or not is a bit less straightforward, in the sense that the answer one gives depends largely on their general socioeconomic values and principles.
Coming back to the second question I formulated at the beginning, namely whether the effects of TV are good or bad, I mentioned that the way we approach this issue largely depends on one's general values. Still, there is one thing that remains relatively uncontroversial, that is the fact that TV can lead to the adoption of a distorted view of real world. Now I think that there is some degree of objectivity in claiming that having little contact with what reality looks like is rather negative. Thinking that there is more luxury and richness than there really is, or that crime and violence are constantly present in the world where we live, unavoidably influences our real-life experiences. Such beliefs are likely to lead to disappointment for, say, not being as rich as the majority of the people on TV, but also to higher mistrust or fear for the probability of becoming victim of a perpetration. But there is another aspect of the effects that TV has on us that is more subjective and open to contemplation, but, in my view, at least equally important. I am referring here to the normative role that TV plays in our lives. The world that TV programs consistently display, full of richness and successful professionals or “glittering” celebrities sooner or later leads us to the conclusion that this is how the real world ought to be. Partial evidence for this “normative effect” is the great extent to which values such as consumerism or the aesthetic of sex appeal put forth by TV are so greatly adopted by a large part of the society. In my personal opinion, this normative role of the TV is negative to the extent that many other social values, probably much more beneficial for society and social life in general, are underrepresented.
Myrto Pantazi is a Ph.D. student at the Université Libre de Bruxelles.
Gerbner, G., Gross, L., Morgan, M., & Signorielli, N. (1994), Growing Up with Television: The Cultivation Perspective, in B. Jennings & D. Zillmann, (Eds.), Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research, Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 17–41.
Shrum, L. J., Wyer, R. S. Jr., & O'Guinn, T. C. (2008). The Effects of Television Consumption on Social Perceptions: The Use of Priming Procedures to Investigate Psychological Processes. Journal of Consumer Research, 24 (4), 447-458.