Monday, October 17, 2011

13 Departs House, Leaving Lessons About Genetic Testing

One of the central features of the Olivia Wilde's character "Thirteen" was her struggle with the memory of what a terrible genetic disorder did to her mother... and her tremulous approach to confronting the answers that genetic testing might reveal to her. As Wilde makes her final regular appearance on House, it's a good time to look back at a bit of that history.

Friday, October 07, 2011

"Stranger Danger" & Obesity

It happens, but very rarely. 

A U.S. Department of Justice report* estimates that about 115 children a year are abducted by a stranger and taken far away or overnight or held for ransom or killed. It's a calamity for each family. But by comparison more than 1,500 children under age 15 are killed and almost 600,000 are injured in car crashes in the US each year according to CDC statistics.

Yet parents are scolded and shamed (or worse) if they let their kids play in the neighborhood without a minder shadowing their every move. And parents load their kids into the car and drive them to school (remember the leading cause of death of children in the US is car crashes) because they are afraid to let them walk there or even wait for the school bus without a parent posse on hand.

The "stranger danger" hype on TV has real consequences.

How does it relate to obesity? Think about it. Free outdoor play is discouraged. Walking or bicycling to school forbidden. Kids are kept inside or in the car. While fear of abduction by strangers is not the only reason that children today aren't as active as earlier generations, it certainly plays a role... and the toll of rising childhood obesity may be shorter lives.

So should we really spend so much time worrying about strangers? Or maybe a little more time worrying about the effects of the familiar TV set.

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

*Note: The Second National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART–2) is currently being updated with research that will go into NISMART-3.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Scary TV Makes the Real World Look Scarier

A half-century ago, communication researcher George Gerbner developed the "Mean World Index." Survey questions measure how trusting or fearful people are. What’s interesting is that fear of crime, for example, appears to correlate more closely with the level of crime on TV than it does to actual rates of crime reported by law enforcement agencies...

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Influence of TV Medical Shows Adds Up

The influence of fictional TV shows is a drip, drip, drip effect.
“It’s not a conscious process, where you become frightened because you say, ‘In ER they didn’t manage to save that person’s life, so that will also happen to me.’ Instead, it’s totally unconscious. But there are studies which clearly document this process, which we call ‘cultivation.’...

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

How Cheery Marcus Welby MD Became Surly Greg House

Whatever you thought of last night's season 8 premiere of "House", you have to admit that it's hard to imagine the medical TV icon of an earlier generation, Marcus Welby, M.D., ever finding himself behind bars. The evolution from TV physicians who were almost always really nice guys to the rough and biting Dr. House is just part of a TV industry response to changing technology, according to communications researcher Amir Hetsroni, PhD.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Don't Expect a Happy Ending on House (or other TV shows)

Season 8 of House premieres tonight in the United States.

While the show is often loads of fun, the fates of patients on this and other TV medical dramas is often not the kind of "happily ever after" we tend to believe define Hollywood Endings. In sharp contrast to the common belief that things work out better in fiction than in reality, a recent survey of hospital patients on TV shows found quite the opposite.