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: Alcohol probably makes it harder to stop sexual violence—so why aren't colleges talking about it?

Related Stories

When it comes to our brains, there's no such thing as normal

February 20, 2018

There's nothing wrong with being a little weird. Because we think of psychological disorders on a continuum, we may worry when our own ways of thinking and behaving don't match up with our idealized notion of health. But ...

Fish study finds genes that regulate social behaviors

February 5, 2018

Genes in an area of the brain that is relatively similar in fish, humans and all vertebrates appear to regulate how organisms coordinate and shift their behaviors, according to a new Cornell University study.

Women's sexual orientation linked to (un)happiness about birth

December 11, 2017

Unhappiness about a pregnancy or birth has been associated with negative health outcomes for mothers and babies. Yet, unhappiness about a pregnancy or birth has been understudied, particularly among sexual minority (non-heterosexual) ...

Recommended for you

A statistical look at the probability of future major wars

February 22, 2018

Aaron Clauset, an assistant professor and computer scientist at the University of Colorado, has taken a calculating look at the likelihood of a major war breaking out in the near future. In an article published on the open ...

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.