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Psychology of Television

Oct 08, 1999 968 Words
Psychology of Television
Today many people think that television is the cause of violence in today’s youth. Many have pondered that television disturbs traditions as well as interferes with the minds of adolecened children who can not yet comprehend the truth of fiction and reality. Thus television has become a widely talked about controversy, mainly because of the fatal incidents that have been occurring during the past couple of years. Questions are being raised and people want answers. What kind of effects does the television have on human beings? In today’s society the public is interested in the detailed information about the content of television. Persons who work in the media are often concerned with what the television portrays and why it portrays the way it does. Even though they know that their shows are representative to their viewers tastes and not that of the “real world.” Although this information is not acknowledged as fiction or non-fiction it is still portrayed and processed information by the viewer. One must be able to realize, “How this information is different from everyday life?” By mocking a family, situation, or community, distortions and biases occur on the television when these subjects are compared to “real life.” Still unsure of these problems the majority of humans watch even when they don’t understand – why? Television is a medium of novelty, with each new season bringing new shows with dreamier characters and more enticing situations. These shows are successful because they challenge one’s wisdom if he or she were in the same situation. This is the reason why people are starting to question and be afraid of the pushed boundaries of television. With the dramatic increase of violence in today’s world the programmers are filling ones mind of not wisdom, but the dark escape of violence which makes up the viewers mind for them. The definition of physical violence is stated as these two presented: Any overt depiction of a credible threat of physical force or the actual use of such force intended to physically harm an animated being or group of beings. (National Television Violence Study, 1996)

The overt expression of physical force against self or other, compelling action against one’s will on pain of being hurt or killed, or actually hurting or killing. (Gerbner, 1972)

These definitions concur in encompassing credible threats, behavior, and consequences, and the former includes accidents and acts of God and nature. (Comstock, 65) The viewers who are exposed to this violence are children, young children, who do not know better. Children start watching television at a steady habit around the age of 2 ½ (Anderson & Levin, 1976), although there is some evidence that children are aware of some things about television, and like it, as early as 6 months of age (Hollenbeck & Slaby, 1979). The longer children grow up with TV the more accustom they become to the violence and false realities of a fiction world not like their own. The most obvious areas of deceiving behavior from television characters are violence, sexual behaviors and health portrayals. In health related issues parents are skeptical because there is a soft line for all of the true facts. With the same aspect parents do not want their young children to learn about sex related issues too early. When a child reaches adolescence he or she has already spent more time watching television than going to school, and had been exposed to all of television’s deceiving messages (Signorielli, 1987). Violence is not the only distortion on television these days; it is just the most extensively studied. Analyses of the messages on television have revealed other interesting facts about portrayals of sex and gender, of nations, and of the age distribution of characters. All of these categories are “distorted” in some way or another compared to demographic information in the United States. Keep in mind that these findings all concern the program and not the advertising content of television (Condry, 68). A common drug to almost all teenagers and to television is alcohol. It is mentioned in about 80% of all prime-time programs, and places where alcohol is consumed, not to mention it is frequently the centerpiece of action. On television, characters rarely decline a drink or express disapproval of drinking. When disapproval is expressed, it is usually mild, ineffective, and comes from women (Condry, 77). Television’s discourses are ideological in that they provide “subject positions” to which audience members are said to be “recruited”. Thus, the individual “learns to recognize itself in a series of subject positions...which are the positions from which discourse is intelligible to itself and others (Academic Press, 103). The viewer is not compelled to take a position even though there are different ones offered by the program. In either case it would seem that the logical effect remains within the discourse and does not translate directly to the viewer. The simple answer to the objection is that the reader will not be able to make sense of what he or she sees other than identifying with. Now that you know some of the ways that television programs can cloud your mind, try and be more observant when you or your little one is sitting in front of the television. You are watching more than “just some thing on TV.” Television today is getting more violent and graphic, and that is not the worst of it. Programmers are playing with a young child’s mind – with my mind, and even with yours. People just don’t realize it, or they choose to ignore it, until something drastic happens.

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