Friday, September 30, 2011

What You Think You Know May Be a Fantasy

How often do you hang out in a hospital or doctor’s office? Not often, unless that’s where you work, right? What if I pointed out that you probably see the inside of a clinic or hospital ward or even an operating room almost every day? 

Of course, you see it on TV, not with your own eyes. This sort of media experience is not firsthand experience, but it still has an effect on how you view the real world around you.

Amir Hetsroni, Ph.D., sees firsthand how TV shows fill gaps in our personal experience. He does research and teaches classes on communication. At the beginning of a term he will often quiz his new students.
“I ask, ‘How many of you have ever been in an operating room, not as an anesthetized patient?’ In a class of thirty or forty students maybe one raises his or her hand, usually not even one. And then I ask the following question, ‘How many of you think you can describe to me what an operating room looks like?’ All of a sudden half of the students are able to describe it, sometimes more than half. How do they know about it? They’ve never been there. It’s from television. It’s unconscious. They don’t even know that’s where they’re getting the information.”
Medical dramas make us feel like we know something about a world, the world of medicine, with which most of us have little direct experience. Beyond learning the basic layout of an operating room - that the anesthesiologist usually works near the patient’s head, for example - viewers absorb other recurring themes from TV hospitals. And the images that sink into our brains influence what we believe about health care in the real world.

Read the full discussion in “House, M.D. vs. Reality

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