Too much news?

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                I recently went to my parent's house for Thanksgiving.  After spending a couple of days with them I realized that their television was on Fox News from the moment I woke up until I went to bed.  Our discussions tended to be about the war in Afghanistan, global warming and their concern over where their community is headed.  I thought these conversations were normal because my husband is a Marine and they usually quiz him on his thoughts and opinions regarding current events.  However, if George Gerbner had joined us for dinner, he would have shared with us his theory on heavy exposure to television, especially the news.

            Gerbner's Cultivation Theory "focuses on the effects of heavy exposure to TV.  Cultivation theory maintains that TV operates as the primary socializing agent in today's world" (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2005).  My parents are learning about what is going on in the world around them solely from the news.  Due to the fact that the television is on more than four hours a day (considered to be heavy exposure) they are creating a reality based on what they see and hear on a news channel. 

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       News programming has the heaviest concentration of realistic violence on television. "Survey research with adults also finds that heavier viewers of the local news are more likely to experience fear and be concerned about crime rates in their community than are lighter viewers" (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2005).  The cultivation theory explains why my parents are so concerned with war, global warming and the state of their community.  Their interest seems to go past casual conversation.  Since my last visit, they seem to view the world as unsafe, corrupt and more violent.  As my parents have increased the amount of television (especially) news programming that they watch, their positive feelings about what is going on in the world around them has decreased.

             My parents think that by having the television on all the time they are staying current with world events.  When I asked my dad why the television was constantly on, he said that it is really just background noise and that they only watch it when something interesting comes on.  Unfortunatly, he is still exposed to the violence (even if he is only partly paying attention).  When I explained Gerbner's Cultivation Theory to him it took him a while to digest what I was saying.  He needed to adjust his belief that "overexposure" to television doesn't exist if you are watching the news.  It does exist, and it may cause even more harm than watching "Dancing with the Stars." 

 

References

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2005). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Image used from http://www.tvsmarter.com/documents/aggression.html

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4 Comments

The title of your blog post immediately caught my eye. It's ironic, just the other day I was talking with my mom about the news. Everytime I turn on the local tv stations, there is always something being said about the news. In my opinion, most of the news isn't about happy thoughts. "Shooting kills five" or "local bank robbed" are topics that were on last night's news. One in a while, I will hear something something good on the news, but most of the time it's all negative things. To answer your question, yes, I think there can be too much news at times. Even when looking at the picture you posted in your blog, it doesn't look just a place I would want to be. I agree with your post, the news contains the heaviest concentration of realistic violence on television.

I take care of this old drunk man and he often tries to bate me into having political discussions. These so called discussions often turn into full blown arguments with one of us (normally me) walking away in complete disgust. My drunk elderly friend is a republican who dislikes our current president because very right winged individuals on talk shows dislike him. Yes, that’s right my drunk friend dislikes the president be people he has never met utter words of distain on their media shows. My drunk friend soaks these words up day in and day out. It’s great to have an opinion, but really it needs to be your own.

Many of these talk show hosts spout such word vomit all over the place many people who are unhappy with world and their lot in life believe what is said to be the truth. The so called news reporters and TV hosts often aren't reporting the facts but their view on the facts. The facts are twisted and turned until all that's left is a mutilated mess. Research has consistently found that TV influences heavy viewers’ perceptions of the world (Shrum, (1999, 2002) cited in Schneider et al.(2010)). My drunk friend is also very paranoid that everyone is going to steal from him including the government. All of this comes from watching and listening to TV and radio shows. He is so disconnect to the real world that watching TV has become his only link to the outside. It’s sad to know that some people relate to the world by watching a 32” flat screen TV.....

References

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2005). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems. London: Sage.

Shrum, L. J. (1999). The relationship of television viewing with attitude strength and extremity: Implications for the cultivation effect. Media Psychology, 1, 3-25.

Shrum, L. J. (2002). Media consumption and perceptions of social reality: Effects and underlying processes. In J. Bryant & D. Zillmann (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research (2nd ed., pp. 69-96). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

My grandparents also watch the news constantly. From when she wakes up at 5am to when she goes to bed at 7pm some form of news is on. Just as an observation, I would say they have a generally negative outlook on society. My grandmother locks everything in the house that has a lock, and warns me to do the same. She is sure there is a murderer or thief waiting in every shadow.

I found a recent study involving this topic. Szabo, and Hopkinson (2007) had 179 undergraduates watch a 15 minute random newscast. Following the newscast the participants exhibited a state anxiety and total mood disturbance increased, with a decrease in positive.

I found it really surprising that just 15 minutes of watching the news could have this effect. My boyfriend hates watching the news, maybe he is on to something!

References:

Szabo, A., & Hopkinson, K. L. (2007). Negative psychological effects of watching the news in the television: Relaxation or another intervention may be needed to buffer them! International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 14(2), 57-62. doi:10.1007/BF03004169

UUmmm Rachel, what are you doing in my house?? I know the feeling!! I am a member of the sandwich generation that lives with my parent, in this case an ‘In-law’, and no lie here. My mother-in-law watches on average 7 to 9 hours of news a day!! And when I read that about Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory in the book I was jumping up and down wanting to shout to the sky. But, I had to contain myself and slide this theory in real smooth so that way I could get her to understand the point.

What I really found interesting about this theory was that as more a person watches TV the more they begin to believe (their perceptions) of the world is the way that it is (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2005). To me this sounded really like a definition for brain washing, not to be rude or incorrect about it but it does. Also, the text states that the more that they believe that an environment is unsafe the more they will not engage in it (p 163), disturbing to say the least.

I know that even though my life is as busy and hectic as everyone else’s life, I am lucky to find five minutes to even turn on a TV and see what the weather is going to be like for the next day.

References:

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2005). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

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