“Always On My Mind?”

Posted by on Oct 7, 2014 in MEL Notes Blog | 0 comments



About the Author: Hillary Akers is a second-year master’s student in the Manship School of Mass Communication. Her research interest is journalism schools and curriculum adaptation.


Overview of “Always On My Mind”

In the journal article, “Always On My Mind: Exploring How Frequent, Recent, and Vivid Television Portrayals, Are Used in the Formation of Social Reality Judgments,” Dr. Karyn Riddle, associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studied the effect of vividness, frequency, and recent exposure on social reality beliefs and accessibility using the heuristic processing model and cultivation theory as her theoretical foundation. The study found that vividness and frequency interacted to create a significant influence on social reality beliefs. Participants who were exposed to vivid images of violence in television programming, more frequently provided higher estimates of crime and violence in the world than those exposed to violence less frequently. The study yielded no findings supporting any influence on accessibility of constructs. Riddle (2010) also found that estimates of the prevalence of crime and immorality in the world were generally higher when participants were asked immediately following exposure to the violent programming, and tended to be lower after a 48-hour delay. Riddle (2010) concluded that views of social reality of heavier viewers of violent programming will, over time, be impacted.

A future study that would possibly increase the internal validity of this study would be one that used full episodes of shows including violent behavior. Research on the connections that audiences make with television characters would be necessary in the literature review. This would add validity to the claim of the impact of vivid or non-vivid on-screen portrayals on viewers. The experiment would also more closely mirror reality in which viewers are exposed to an entire episode. The experimental design would keep the same 2x2x2 design. Also, post-questions about the viewers’ ability to relate to the character could be informative and beneficial to the study.


Themes, Binge Watching, and Media of the Future

Riddle’s (2010) study contributes to a continuously growing body of work concerning the cultivation theory and heuristic processing model. As more and more television programming becomes available with consistent themes, such as violence, substance abuse, moral guidelines, etc., this body of work continues to be relevant to our culture. Also, the trend of “binge watching,” through media sources such as Hulu and Netflix, where viewers are exposed to similar themes in aggressive amounts at a time, opens the academic landscape to cultivation theory and heuristic processing as we’ve never seen it before. This area of research continues to be subject to new questions as the way in which we consume media continues to transform.

Interactive media is also an open field for study of cultivation theory and heuristic processing. With media contexts such as interactive gaming and social networking, the effects of exposure to themes or ideas in a interactive atmosphere are yet to be explored fully. It’s also important to note that while Riddle’s study explores the cultivation of violence there are many other themes or ideas that can be studied in similar ways, such as political ideology, beliefs toward or about minorities, and beliefs toward foreign people, places, or ideas.


Final Discussions of “Always On My Mind”

As pointed out in discussion of this article in class and online, the exclusion of some parts of each episode could change how the viewers relate to the characters (Camille Ivy-O’Donnell via Discussion Board). Through email conversation, Riddle agrees that the exclusion of such content may pose a threat to the internal validity of the study. Riddle further explained that her main concern with cutting content was that the viewers would not be able to follow the story if abrupt cuts happened. To check for confusion, the study included questions asking participants how easy/difficult it was to follow the storyline. Riddle commented that the participants’ answers did not vary based on which version they were exposed to.

Another concern posed by classmates in discussion of this article was the lack of variety in the age of participants. Riddle agrees that the results are generalizable to a limited sample. Riddle stated that in general younger audiences are more inclined to enjoy violence than older audiences. She believes that the same experiment with an older audience could produce different patterns in the findings.