Risky behaviors on TV may be modeled by inexperienced viewers

September 25, 2008

Content analyses demonstrate that TV programming is highly saturated with sexual content and risky sexual behavior. A new study in the Journal of Communication shows that people with direct experience with such behavior are not influenced by its portrayal on TV. However, those without direct experience are more likely to participate in the unsafe behavior in the future, regardless of the consequences displayed.

Robin L. Nabi and Shannon Clark of the University of California conducted two studies to assess whether or not televised depictions of risky sexual behaviors alter viewers' expectations of their own future sexual behaviors, regardless of their consequences.

In the first study, researchers examined the contents of TV programming schemas and found that viewers expect main characters to ultimately survive and thrive despite the adversity they face. In the second study, college women were exposed to various portrayals of promiscuous sexual behavior, such as one night stands, that were edited to display more or less positive or negative outcomes.

Portrayals of the risky behavior were likely to affect only those without direct experience with the target behavior. The portrayal of outcomes—good or bad—did not affect attitudes or intentions regarding that behavior.

Specifically, for those who had not previously had a one night stand, viewing fictional depictions of this behavior significantly increased expectations of the likelihood of having one in the future, regardless of the positive or negative outcomes portrayed.

"Even when behaviors are negatively portrayed, audiences may be motivated to model them anyways," the authors conclude. "We hope this research stimulates greater care in the application and testing of psychological theories to the study of media content and effects."

Source: Wiley

Explore further: UW-led group launches plan to reduce youth problems by 20 percent in a decade

Related Stories

First sex linked to better body image in men, not women

March 23, 2011

Having sex for the first time can improve or degrade your self-image depending on whether you are male or female, according to Penn State researchers. On average, college-age males become more satisfied with their appearance ...

Study shows early brain effects of HIV in mouse model

March 2, 2011

A new mouse model closely resembles how the human body reacts to early HIV infection and is shedding light on nerve cell damage related to the disease, according to researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Unhappy children turn to sex and alcohol

November 9, 2010

Young children who don't like school are more likely to be involved in underage drinking and sexual activity. A study reported in BioMed Central's open access journal Substance Abuse, Treatment, Prevention and Policy, has ...

Recommended for you

French teen finds 560,000 year-old tooth (Update)

July 28, 2015

A 16-year-old French volunteer archaeologist has found an adult tooth dating back around 560,000 years in southwestern France, in what researchers hailed as a "major discovery" Tuesday.

The couple who Facebooks together, stays together

July 27, 2015

Becoming "Facebook official" is a milestone in modern romance, and new research suggests that activities on the popular social networking site are connected to whether those relationships last.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.