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Determining the Relationship between Mass Media and the Social Behaviors of Adolescents in the Mandeville Community
In partial fulfilment for the requirement of the Department of Communication Studies COMM320 Communication Research Methods
Kenisha Hanson 11031552
Elaine Oxamendi Vicet
February 17, 2012
The world of mass media has for decades been used as the medium through which advertisers and government leaders alike have as said in colloquial terms “milked the engine” in manipulating a scenario, event or cause in getting a predicted response from its public. Whether it’s through the use of print, radio, television or electronic media, it has been studied and proven that, what is communicated through media makes an impression on the individual listening or watching, which undoubtedly influences a change (whether beneficial or not) in their social behavior. Likewise, “eating disorders, theorists and feminist scholars have long indicted fashion magazines, movies, television, and advertising for their advocacy of disordered eating (Levine & Smolak, 1998). It is said that individuals are “products” of their atmosphere, the way they were or are socialized through daily interactions with their preferred media genre influences highly the way they behave. Females for example and the pursuit of being thin can be connected to the images that are constantly appearing in magazines and “given the relationship between the mass media and initialization of sociocultural standards for appearance, researchers have proposed possible interventions specifically targeting the negative effect of mass media messages promoting the thin ideal (Jasper, 1993; Shaw & Waller, 1995)”.
Incidentally, the media driven era that we live in heavily contributes daily to life events, impacts or changes the behavior of adolescents. Mass media highly influences shopping, relationships, communication and the education of an adolescent.
Statement of the problem:
Research shows that there is a direct relationship between social behavior and media consumption. “Current research suggests that “mass media (TV, movies, magazines, internet) pervade the everyday lives of people living in Western societies, and undoubtedly one of the effects of such media saturation is the pervasive transmission of societal beauty ideals” (Tiggemann, 2006, para. 2).
The craftiness of mass media to influence what an adolescents wear’s, eats, talk about or try to become is communicated through all the media genres. “Digital editing has created a false world that is impossible to achieve. Celebrities, good or bad, have been made “role-models” and are presented as people that should be emulated. Media marketing has taken a negative toll on many aspects of adolescent lives. It is entwined with entertainment, fashion, and music, making it almost impossible to differentiate reality from fantasy. Teen-age girls who viewed commercials depicting women who modeled the unrealistically thin-ideal type of beauty caused adolescent girls to feel less confident, angrier, and more dissatisfied with their weight and appearance (Hargreaves, 2002, p. 287).
This research is aimed at studying directly the influences of mass media on the behavior of adolescents in the community of Mandeville.
The purpose of this study is to determine the relationship between mass media and the social behaviors of adolescence 13-18 in the Mandeville community. Subsequently, this study will not
be focusing primarily on the benefits, positive or negative influences of media, but will be researching the influence that media has on the social behavior of the demographics.
(1) Are individuals aware of the influence that media has on their social behaviors?
(2) What is the relationship between the media genre that has the most influence on social behavior and why?
Significance of the Study The study is significant because determining whether or not there is a relationship between mass media and the behaviour of adolescents, which could be used to guide parents as to what they allow their children to watch, read or listen to. It could also help the different media genres to take into consideration the influential role they play in sending subliminal messages, thus producing work that will be of a benefit to all its customers and society.
Rationale for the research “All together, the massive flow of popular images, representations, and symbolic models disseminated by the media profoundly shapes what young people think about the world and how they perceive themselves in relation to it.” (Huntemann & Morgan, 2001, p. 309) Proven is that whatever information the media transmits during one’s formative years as a child or adolescence tends to influence cognitive thoughts and interpretations. Thus contributing to the way individuals behave socially. This study is important to explore because it will seek to determine if much of what people eat, drink, talk about, places they visit, and their fashion-
consciousness, spiritual beliefs, etc are influenced by the media genres of print, television, radio and or electronic media.
Definition of terms
Colloquial: characteristic of or appropriate to ordinary or familiar conversation rather than formal speech or writing; informal.
Mass Media: any of the means of communication, as television or newspapers, that reach very large numbers of people.
Demographics: the statistical data of a population, especially those showing average age, income, education, etc.
Adolescent: growing to manhood or womanhood; youthful. Formation: the act or process of forming or the state of being formed: Cognitive: of or pertaining to the mental processes of perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning, as contrasted with emotional and volitional processes.
Rationale: the fundamental reason or reasons serving to account for something.
There is a direct correlation between mannerisms and behaviors which is communicated through indirect and unintentional subliminal messaging via mass media.
Chapter 2 Literature Review Since being formally introduced to mass media, I have heard and read many times that media contributes heavily to the way an individual acts whether positively or negatively. This issue has been a topic of discussion and debate among many psychologist, specialist and researchers such as Tammo H.A. Bijmolt and Wilma Claassen. According to the website http://www.psychologicalscience.org/pdf/pspi/pspi43.pdf , “research has been done in many areas of mass media and some early researches show that “entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values, and behavior, particularly in children”, while in comparison “a mass media program may be used to affect health policy by influencing public opinion. “For example, addictive behaviors are relatively difficult to alter directly through the mass media, an expectable finding because these behaviors are often difficult to modify even with intensive one-to-one intervention. Nonetheless, mass media programs aimed at reducing smoking have been credited with being more cost-effective than many other methods of controlling tobacco use by influencing public attitudes. Changes in public attitudes have led to policy changes in areas such as the rights of nonsmokers, cigarette taxes, and bans on advertising (7,8). As a result of these changes, tobacco use declined 22.4 percent between the years 1963 and 1975 (9).” (Austin & Husted, 1998) The results from researchers such as (Austin & Husted, 1998) and information discovered at http://www.psychologicalscience.org/pdf/pspi/pspi43.pdf, proves that individuals tend to “model” behavior or mannerism of which they are exposed to, a process normally observed in children. For example, if a child watches a movie where his favorite character does something
such as drink a beer, the child then with this image tends to want to imitate the actions of the person they admire. Because the beloved figured does this action, the child then thinks this is an acceptable thing to do, which they end up doing. This action of imitating could adversely lead to the child becoming an alcoholic later in life, but that is another research for another time. As adolescents have open access to world the media: through television, internet, radio, and video games, it is safe to say that the availability of these media’s can possibly influence greatly their behaviors and social skills. The media can influence an adolescents final decisions about what they wear, their reactions to certain things, and attitude, “every exposure to every media model provides a potential guide to behavior or attitude, a potential source of identification, a human exemplar we may use whether in accordance with the model or explicitly contrary to it, and whether consciously or not to define and construct our identities” (Huntemann & Morgan, 2001, p. 310). The actors, actresses, and other celebrities that portray certain behaviors, ideas, and beliefs are now prominent models in an adolescent’s life. The radio, for example, “has been explained by many as providing teenagers with acceptable social cues; as giving them something of interest to discuss with their friends; as an important source for socialization…” (Paik, 2001, p. 13). Still, the radio is not the only source that adolescents turn to; there are movies, television shows, magazines, advertisements, and the internet just to name a few sources. Albert Bandura, a psychologist specializing in studies about social learning, estimates that the media ranks third as a source of influence on an individual, behind family and social environment respectively (Huston & Wright, 1996).
The world of mass media hasn’t only left an imprint on the lives of adolescents but it is also playing the role of a puppeteer in their daily lives. “Adolescence comprises the important formative years in individuals’ lives, the time when individuals are forming their own, separate identities” (Myers, 2008). And, although they prefer to have separate, unique identities, teenagers tend to conform first before branching out as individuals. At this time, especially, the “models” that adolescents observe can influence who they become. Social Learning Theory emphasizes the role of observation, looking to these models, in an adolescent’s learning process. These models can include parents, teachers, siblings, peers, the media, and more. Observational learning, then, explains the role of modeling in an adolescent’s learning process. (Shirfley, 2008) As aware or unaware an adolescent may be about the influences of mass media on their behaviors “the ability of media marketing to affect adolescents today has evolved through many different means. Digital editing has created a false world that is impossible to achieve. Celebrities, good or bad, have been made “role-models” and are presented as people that should be emulated. Media marketing has taken a negative toll on many aspects of adolescent lives. It is entwined with entertainment, fashion, and music, making it almost impossible to differentiate reality from fantasy. Teen-age girls who viewed commercials depicting women who modeled the unrealistically thin-ideal type of beauty caused adolescent girls to feel less confident, angrier, and more dissatisfied with their weight and appearance (Hargreaves, 2002, p. 287). According to the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, sociocultural norms for ideal appearance lead women to base their self-worth more strongly on appearance than on character. This study focused on the effects that media marketing has on influencing adolescent girls’ lives”. (Sanders 2009)
After reading through research after research about the influences of mass media, it is evident that the psychologists, scientists and specialists are attributing many human behaviors to mass media. Although sociocultural pressures may be exerted by a variety of sources (e.g., peers, parents, and partners; see Thompson, Heinberg, et al., 1999), it has been suggested that the mass media are the most potent and pervasive communicators of sociocultural standards (Heinberg, 1996; Mazur, 1986). Mass media is defined as modes of communication that generate messages designed for very large, heterogeneous, and anonymous audiences with the goal of maximizing profit (Harris, 1994; Levine & Smolak, 1998). Although images of beauty have historically been communicated through art, music, and literature, it is the ready accessibility and universality of today's print and electronic media that have been most harshly criticized by body image and eating disorders researcher. There is little doubt that media reach their audience. Women's magazines, probably more than any other form of mass media, have been criticized as being advocates and promoters of the desirability of an unrealistic and dangerously thin ideal (Wolf, 1990). For example, 83% of teenage girls report spending a mean of 4.3 hours a week reading magazines for pleasure or school (Levine & Smolak, 1996), and Levine, Smolak, and Hayden (1994) found that 70% of girls who read magazines on a regular basis endorse them as an important source of beauty and fitness information. Research strongly indicates that a thin ideal is promoted by the print media, particularly magazines aimed at teenage girls and adult women (Cusumano & Thompson, 1997; Nemeroff, Stein, Diehl, & Smilack, 1994; see Levine & Smolak, 1996, for a review). For example, in a study by Nichter and Nichter (1991), adolescent girls endorsed their ideal as the models found in fashion magazines aimed at teenage girls. This ideal teenage girl was described as being 5'7", 100 pounds, and size 5 with long blonde hair and blue eyes. Reaching such an
extreme ideal is quite unrealistic for most women and also dangerous, given that the body mass index of someone with such proportions is less than 16, clearly in the anorexic and amenorrhea range. Television may also be a powerful influence: In the average home, the television is on for more than 7 hours per day (Harris, 1994), and unrealistic ideals similar to those found in the print media can be found on television shows. The vast majority of female television characters are thinner than the average American woman, with less than 10% of women appearing on television being overweight (Gonzalez-Lavin & Smolak, 1995; Heinberg, 1996). These trends may be even more typical in television programs favored by younger women and adolescents. Gonzalez-Lavin and Smolak (1995) demonstrated that middle-school-aged girls' favorite television characters were rated as much thinner than the average woman. The advocacy organization Children Now and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 71% of adolescent girls ages 16 and 17 believed that female actors on television were unrealistically thin (Labi, 1998).” (Thompson & Heinburg, 1999) “The link between media and body dissatisfaction or disturbed eating is supported by women's and girls' own reports (e.g., Milkie, 1999; Tiggemarm, Gardiner, & Slater, 2000; Wertheim, Paxton, Schutz, & Muir, 1997), and by prospective studies that have demonstrated that media involvement (trying to look like the models on television or in magazines) predicts the development of weight concerns (Field et al., 2001) and purging behavior (Field, Camargo, Taylor, Berkey, & Colditz, 1999). In addition, several studies (but not all) that have assessed media exposure and weight concern independently, report positive correlations between fashion magazine or television consumption and body dissatisfaction (Anderson, Huston, Schmitt, Linebarger, & Wright, 2001; Stice, Schupak-Neuberg, Shaw, & Stein, 1994), perceptions of
overweight (McCreary & Sadava, 1999), and eating disorder symptomatology (Harrison, 1997, 2000; Stice et al., 1994). (Tiggemann & Mcgill 2004) As far as we can see, there has been no real difference in the conclusions of the researches that mass media does indeed have an effect on both children and adolescents. Researches have been done from the 90’s and are still continuing today 2011 and as much as the media environment may change, the results of its effects seems to always remain. “Decreases in the prices of personal computers, growing use of high-speed Internet connections, developments in size and definition of TV screens, rapid diffusion of DVD players, the introduction of affordable digital TV recorders (DVRs), the emergence of digital music recorders and music file-sharing – all such developments continue to reshape the media environment…and thus, we believe, to reshape children’s media behavior.” (Roberts, Foehr, Rideout, & Kaiser Family Foundation 2005)
Theoretical Framework For this study, the theory the Hypodermic Needle Theory also called the Magic Bullet Theory will be employed. The "hypodermic needle theory" implied mass media had a direct, immediate and powerful effect on its audiences. “The mass media in the 1940s and 1950s were perceived as a powerful influence on behavior change”. (Katz & Lazarsfeld 1955)
Several factors contributed to this "strong effects" theory of communication, including: - the fast rise and popularization of radio and television - the emergence of the persuasion industries, such as advertising and propaganda
- the Payne Fund studies of the 1930s, which focused on the impact of motion pictures on children, and
monopolization of the mass media during WWII to unify the German public behind the
Nazi party - Hitler's monopolization of the mass media during WWII to unify the German public behind the Nazi party.
This theory is very much applicable to my study because it implies that mass media has a direct, immediate and powerful effect on its audiences. Coincidently the audiences in this study are adolescents from the ages of 13-18, they will be observed after they would have been exposed to watching a movie or ad, listening to the radio, being on the internet and looking through a magazine.
Chapter 3 Methodology
The purpose of this study is to determine the effect of mass media on the social behaviors of adolescents (13-18) in the Mandeville community. A quantitative approach will be followed in conducting this study.
With the readily availability of mass media through television, internet, radio, magazines, and video games, children and adolescents encounter one or more of these medias on a daily basis, making the argument that their behaviors and mannerisms are influenced greatly by what is communicated through anyone of the medias. Participant selection: The criteria for selection of the participants are individuals ranging from 8-18 living in the Mandeville Community and the target gender is both male and female. Instruments: The instruments that will be used are questionnaires. The selected participants in this research will be easily accessible, because they all attend one of the schools listed: Northern Caribbean University, the West Indies Preparatory School and Victor Dixon High School.
The reasons for this particular location are: Demography These campuses are Christian Schools but the enrollment of students is not just Seventhday Adventists, so therefore the findings will reflect a true representation of our actual society.
It would be financially viable to spend much needed time in the aforementioned target audience, by so doing the real effects would unearthed.
Focus groups are readily available.
Data Collection- The interviews will be done face- to-face in a small group on the campus of Northern Caribbean University. The participants will be presented with questionnaires after they would have either listened to an advertisement, read a magazine or watch a clip. The focus group will be divided into 4 groups each being questioned on one of the 4 media’s that were listened to, read or watched. As the sole researcher for this topic I will be responsible for: writing up the questionnaires conducting the interviews correlating the findings select participants organize meetings times and places undertake recommended reading produce written work
References Anderson, Craig A. Berkowitz, Leonard. Donnerstein, Edward. Huesmann, Rowell. Johnson, James D. Linz Daniel. Malamuth, Neil M. and Wartella Ellen THE INFLUENCE OF MEDIA VIOLENCE ON YOUTH. http://www.psychologicalscience.org/pdf/pspi/pspi43.pdf .
Austin, Linda S. and Husted Katharine. Cost-Effectiveness of Television, Radio, and Print Media Programs for Public Mental Health Education, 1998.
Foehr. Ulla G, Rideout. Victoria and Roberts Donald F. Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8–18 Year-0ld, Kaiser Family Foundation, 2005 http://www.kff.org/entmedia/loader.cfm?url=/commonspot/security/getfile.cfm&PageID=51809 Heinberg . Leslie J. and Thompson Kevin.J The Media's Influence on Body Image Disturbance and Eating Disorders: We've Reviled Them, Now Can We Rehabilitate Them? (Joumal of Social Issues, Vol. 55, No. 2, 1999, pp. 339-353) http://students.ced.appstate.edu/newmedia/06fall-cohort/gray/MediaInfluence.pdf Mcgill Belinda and Tiggemann Marika. The Role Of Social Comparison In The Effect Of Magazine Advertisements On Women’s Mood And Body Dissatisfaction (Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 23, No. 1, 2004, pp. 23-44)
Sanders, Erica Laurén. The Influence of Media Marketing on Adolescent Girls. 2009.
http://www.kon.org/urc/v8/sanders.html Shifley, Allyson. The Influence of the Media on Adolescents: An Examination of Identity Formation. 2008. http://www.lulu.com/items/volume_63/2491000/2491750/1/print/Allison_Shifley.pdf home.aubg.bg/students/MIG080/.../Plan_Research_41INEED.docx