Media Influence: stop it or use it

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Media has been shown to have the ability to tremendously impact our lives and our perceptions ever since its creation. Whether it's audio, video, or text, media can change the way that we think about the world (Ewolden & Roskos, 2012). A myriad of aspects ranging from body image (Knauss, Paxton, & Alsaker, 2008), to increased aggression (Anderson & Bushman, 2002), to how we view athletes (Knight & Giuliano, 2001), to who we trust our children with (Hodgetts & Rua, 2008) are all influenced by the media that we are exposed to. The question then becomes, how can this influence be limited?


(Image courtesy of Don Addis)

Sarah Grogan (2010) looked at a number of different articles relating to the variables that influence body image and possible ways to mediate them.  She found that satisfaction with body image is related to the internalization of the ideal body figure as displayed in media and social comparison with those ideals (Grogan, 2010). She suggests that psycho-social interventions be used to reduce this internalization and make the social comparisons more realistic but notes that these are only short-term solutions. According to Grogan,  more research needs to be done to develop interventions that combat negative body image that are more long-term (2010).

In regards to aggression, Nathanson and Cantor (2000) looked at whether an active mediation strategy in which children were asked to consider the feelings of the victim in a violent cartoon would limit the resulting aggression. They found that for boys, this new perspective resulted in less aggressive tendencies than those who received no mediation (Nathanson & Cantor, 2000). Similar to the concepts of pre-briefing, these critical viewing skills reduced the impact that media has on shaping our behaviors (Ewolden & Roskos, 2012, pp. 153-154). It's clear from these studies that there are ways to reduce the influence that media has on our perceptions and behaviors, but could this influence be used in a positive way?

Owen looked at whether media could be used to change misconceptions about schizophrenia in her 2007 study. She found that video segments contrasting accurate and inaccurate from popular movies and documentaries could be used to improve knowledge about these groups, and even found that video education was more effective than lectures in this regard (Owen, 2007). The implications of this study are that media influence can be used to correct misinformation, not only to create it.

Although this is only a brief snapshot of the influence that media can have on the way we see the world, it is clear from these few studies that it can be a powerful force both for accurate and inaccurate information. Despite the negative influence, it is possible to develop interventions to counter any inaccurate or negative cognitions resulting from media. In fact, media may actually provide the means to do this! Until these interventions have been developed though, the development of critical viewing skills may be the best manner to ensure that media isn't leading people astray.

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(image courtesy of


Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2002). The Effects of Media Violence on Society. Science, 295(5564), 2377-2379.

Ewolden, D. R., & Roskos, B. (2012). Applying Social Psychology to the Media. In F. W. Schneider, J. A. Gruman, & L. M. Coutts (Eds.), Applied Social Psychology (2 ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Grogan, S. (2010). Promoting Positive Body Image in Males and Females: Contemporary Issues and Future Directions. Sex Roles, 63 (9-10), 757-765.

Hodgetts, D., & Rua, M. (2008). Media and community anxieties about men's interactions with children. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 18(6), 527-542.

Knauss, C., Paxton, S. J., & Alsaker, F. D. (2008). Body Dissatisfaction in Adolescent Boys and Girls: Objectified Body Consciousness, Internalization of the Media Body Ideal and Perceived Pressure from Media. Sex Roles, 59(9-10), 633-643.

Knight, J. L., & Giuliano, T. A. (2001). He's a Laker; She's a "Looker": The Consequences of Gender-Stereotypical Portrayals of Male and Female Athletes by the Print Media. Sex Roles, 45(3-4), 217-229.

Nathanson, A. I., & Cantor, J. (2000). Reducing the aggression-promoting effect of violent cartoons by increasing children's fictional involvement with the victim: A study of active mediation. Journal of broadcasting & electronic media, 44(1), 125-142.

Owen, P. (2007). Dispelling Myths About Schizophrenia Using Film. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37(1), 60-75.



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American society is constantly changing. The vast amounts of information available through the television, Internet, radio, movies, and the entertainment business in general influences society’s behaviors, and also influences what society considers to be acceptable . Entertainers and the media influence all of society, whether they acknowledge it or not. What is portrayed on television shows and in the movies can influence what people in society want out of life. For example, entertainers are used in advertisements in order to entice viewers to buy cars, clothing, foods, beverages, and many other products. Why are companies hiring entertainers to advertise their products? Companies and marketers discovered celebrities can influence people to buy their products and increase their profits.

The mass transit of digital information is changing society’s standards, values, traditions, and norms, which is changing the way American society views traditions, such as taking the man’s last name during marriage. Many female celebrities keep their maiden names when they get married because of their status and reputation; otherwise, they might not get recognized for who they are. Female celebrities are not the only females keeping their maiden names once they are married; in fact, other professional women, such as doctors keep their maiden names. Female doctors and other female professionals build their reputations throughout their career with their maiden names; if they change their names when they get married, then patients or clients might not recognize their name.

In my opinion, traditions and values do not remain a priority in our society because the media and entertainers are influencing and creating “new norms” for society. In today’s society, status, recognition, and money are becoming increasingly valuable to individuals. In the past, family, religion, and other traditions were considered to be valuable, especially marriage.

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