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...
It appears to be an international phenomenon. For example, a survey in Belgium asked people whether they or anyone they knew had been mugged or their house burgled, how frightened they were of crime, and their amount, frequency, and type of TV viewing:
This study included measures of direct and indirect experience of crime. There was no significant relationship between experience of crime and either watching crime on television or (more surprisingly) being afraid of crime. It appears, then, that in a sample of the general population mediated experience (i.e. watching television) is a better predictor of fear of crime than actual experience of crime. - From J. Van den Bulck, “The Relationship Between Television Fiction and Fear of Crime,” European Journal of Communication 19 (2004): 239–248
The same thing may also be true about our health care beliefs; that is, they may well correspond more closely to the health care we see on TV (in entertainment and news programs) than to health care in the real world.

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


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